Like the many travelers on the busy but rural stretch of Ga. 52 in North Hall, Wesley Jackson frequently passed the abandoned general store, noticing it only as a rickety reminder of days gone by.
But when the “For Sale” went up in front of the shotgun-style building with faded siding and buckling floors, Jackson hit the brakes.
“The next day, I bought it,” Jackson said. “I was afraid someone else would get it and tear it down or not try to restore it. That’s what’s happening to most of these old buildings. They’re tearing them down for the lumber.”
He and his wife, Michelle Jackson, have breathed new life into the 108-year-old structure, fixing what had fallen beyond repair and keeping intact original pieces — such as the flooring, merchandise shelves and front porch.
“We just wanted to open it back up to the community,” Michelle said.
About this time last year, the couple moved their business, Crazy Mule Arts and Antiques, from Alto in Habersham County to the new location at 7718 Lula Road/Ga. 52, just south of Skitts Mountain Road.
“It’s a work in progress,” Michelle said.
It’s been a year of creating a nostalgic environment — from the gas pumps to the antique pickup truck out front — and meeting new people. They’ve kept the rustic trend going by building their house behind the store to resemble an old barn, complete with antiques and folk art.
Many of the store’s customers have shared memories from the general store days or said they just had to stop they were so curious about the aging building, the couple said.
“At one time, (the store) was like the pillar of the community, a hub of this little area,” Wesley said.
The store features all the usual finds in an antique shop, from household items to tools and furniture. But it also includes paintings drawn by local artists.
Count the Jacksons, married since 2010, among the ones providing the art.
Michelle, who also works as a paraprofessional at Lula Elementary School, was the more experienced painter, but she was able to persuade Wesley to begin the craft.
“I always liked to draw,” he said.
“I told him, ‘If you can draw, you can paint,’” she said.
He’s gotten creative with the materials where he applies the brushes. His canvas could be a piece of rusted tin or the hood of a 1930s truck.
“I enjoy it pretty good,” Wesley said. “It’s all folk artsy stuff, not perfect.”
The biggest part of the venture has been the building’s repair. Basically, the Jacksons had to bring it up to code if they wanted to operate it as a retail store.
“We had to jack it up and replace a lot of the timber,” he said. “The floors were real spongy and weak. We rewired it, put central heating and air in it, and tried to put it as back to original as we could.”
“We went at it hard,” Michelle said.
The work has turned up some interesting discoveries, including an original vented window that had been covered by tin. The couple found a set of screen doors in the attic; they now grace the front doors as they did back in the day.
And perhaps most nostalgic, there’s a hole in the ceiling where piping from an old wooden stove went through. Customers who have reminisced about the old store “said men used to sit around there and play checkers,” Michelle said.
It’s also served other purposes, such as a post office and barbershop.
“Somebody said they held a trial here,” she said.
“You hear so many things, you don’t know what’s rumor and what’s true,” Wesley said.
A customer, Terry Moulder of Gainesville, stopped by as the Jacksons were talking about the store and browsed past the ticketed items. He, like so who pass by in their cars, was curious about what was inside and just had to stop.
“They have a lot of nice, neat old stuff,” Moulder said.