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Old store leaves memories on its shelves
The J. D. Rogers and Sons store building is at the edge of Ga. 52 between Lula and Brookton. - photo by Tom Reed

LULA — The weather feels more like March than mid-May, yet the stiff breezes don’t seem to bend back a piece of loose wood or rusty sign from the rustic building off Ga. 52/Lula Road.

Nor is there a ghostly whistling of the wind through cracks in wooden planks.

Although the shelves have long been empty of canned goods and other sundries, the building that housed J.D. Rogers & Sons and Hugh Wiley Grocery through most of the 20th century stands firm on its foundation of stone columns.

The country store has occupied its scenic lot between Clarks Bridge Road and Ga. 365 for 100 years this month, said Syble Strickland, whose grandfather, Jefferson Davis Rogers, owned the store with his son, Leco.

Last week, Strickland traveled from her Buford home to the North Hall store for a visit.

“There was a big two-story wood house where that brick house is,” she said, pointing up a hill. “I have two brothers and a sister and we were all born in that house.”

Family ties on the property are deep and wide.

Before opening the store with Leco, Jefferson Rogers operated a mill, post office and business known as the Glades store. The father and son built J.D. Rogers & Sons on 59« acres assembled over a couple of years at a cost of $1,351.

They also built two homes on the property, a larger one where Jefferson Rogers and his wife, Arizona, lived and a smaller one where Leco and his wife, Ruth, and their family lived.

Strickland, 73, said her father, Ralph, also known as “Hoss,” was born in the two-story house in December 1909.

Leco Rogers left the family business in 1923 to build and operate his own store at Ga. 52 and Clarks Bridge Road in the Brookton community.

Jefferson Rogers’ son, Charles, moved into his brother’s home, along with his wife Estelle, Strickland said.

Then, Charles Rogers helped his father run the store and continue to run it after his father’s death and until the late 1940s, she said.

In May 1953, Hugh Wiley bought the store, homes and remaining 16« acres from Strickland’s grandmother’s estate, Strickland said.
Wiley operated the store with his son, Hugh J., until the early 1980s, which was about the last time Strickland saw its inside until she visited it last week.

Hugh J. Wiley, whose father died last year, still lives next to the old store, now in the hands of a brother, Tony, who lives in Alpharetta.

He opened the store for Strickland to look inside — and catch a break from the unusually cold weather outside.

“This is a shelf where they had the merchandise,” she said, carefully surveying her surroundings. “And there were counters right along here.”

“There were two counters, one on each side,” Wiley said.

“And one of them had glass in front and that was where the candy was,” Strickland said.

She also remembered a bed in the back of the store.

“I remember when Uncle Charles would go to Florida fishing, I’d spend the night with (Estelle) and sleep back there,” she said.

Over the years, the Wileys didn’t tinker much with the building’s antique store look, inside or out.

“We kept it pretty much like it was,” Wiley said. “We took the counters out. It used to have counters where whomever was running the store got you the stuff — you didn’t get it yourself.”

Business hummed along fine for years.

“He would go fishing or hunting one day and I’d go the next. We had it made,” Wiley recalled of his days in the store and the partnership with his father.

The golden days ended as modern grocery stores came along.

“Walmart and all them (businesses) came in, and Daddy retired and left me to run it by myself, and that was too many hours,” Wiley said.

The building has collected dust, along with assorted tools and other odds and ends, ever since. Some remnants of the former store, such as calendars and packages that once contained automotive belts, still linger.

At one point, Wiley’s family discussed pursuing some kind of historic designation for the building.

“Daddy decided against it, for some reason. I don’t know why,” Wiley said.

Before leaving to head home, Strickland reminisced about her days on the property.

Her family moved from there in 1950 to the Brookton area. Lula Road was all dirt then — she doesn’t know when it was paved.

“Daddy was a farmer and he worked at the saw mill, and we lived with my grandmother all my life until (moving),” she said.

Years and miles separate her from those days, but the old homeplace still yearns in Strickland’s heart.

“It’s just always been real special,” she said.

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