This post was originally published on Hello Jackson on August 12, 2013.
One of the most well-known attractions in Jackson is Brooks Shaw & Son Old Country Store, a place both residents and visitors love. One of my earliest memories of the Old Country Store is from a field trip I took in kindergarten, where I was so excited about the barrels upon barrels of candy!
The main draw of the Old Country Store is definitely the traditional Southern food buffet, which ranges from $8 to $13. You pay for your meal upon entering the buffet area, and you get all you can eat from the salad and fruit bar, plus a variety of meats, vegetables, breads, soups, desserts, and a drink.
One of the customer favorites on the buffet is the cracklin’ cornbread. The recipe is from Brooks Shaw’s mother and has been served at the Old Country Store for decades. My personal favorite from the lunch buffet is the macaroni and cheese. It tastes just like I made it at home but without all the work! The buffet is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a selection of the food is also available on the opposite side of the building in the to-go area from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.. This cheaper option is great if you only want one serving!
After eating your fill of delicious Southern food, you can spend a little time in the authentically recreated 1890s-style ice cream parlor, which was named one of the top fifty in the nation by USA Today. Right in the center of the parlor is the classic soda fountain, obtained years ago by Brooks Shaw. It came from a grocery store in Okolona, Mississippi, and is one of only seventy-five made and one of only three known to exist now. It is over 125 years old.
Besides the several flavors of delicious ice cream available, you can get homemade fudge and a huge selection of bottled soft drinks in the ice cream parlor. I am a huge fan of the bottled soda selection, and the Sioux City Sarsaparilla is absolutely delightful!
Another great part of The Old Country Store is the gift shoppe, which has a Southern general store atmosphere. When you first walk in the door, you are greeted by a huge selection of candy displayed in quaint glass containers and huge barrels. As I mentioned before, this is the part I remember from childhood, and I think any kid would find this section of the store to be very exciting! Across from the candy is a counter full of gorgeous ladies jewelry. The popular Hey Y’all t-shirts are available in addition to so many gift items and Jackson souvenirs that you could shop for hours! As you walk through the store, you can see hundreds of collected antiques hanging from above, which help to give the whole place an old-time feel.
The Old Country Store has an incredible history, starting with a kind, country boy from Providence, Tennessee, named Brooks Shaw. Shaw worked in a small country store called Wellwood in his younger days and, after serving in the United States Army, began a career in sales.
He became the president of Kelly Foods at a young age but began having health problems in this high-stress position. He was advised by a doctor to take up a hobby, and he chose to start collecting antiques. His friend Paul Jobe gave him the three pieces that started his collection and led to years of antiquing.
When the collection grew quite large, Brooks and his wife Anne decided to open an antique museum, which was located on Airways. In 1965 the antique museum had a small lunch counter that originally offered cold cuts, cheese and cracker plates, pickles, etc.. It quickly evolved into a popular eatery for locals and travelers alike.
Brooks Shaw passed away in 1971, leaving the business in the hands of his hard-working and devoted family. The Old Country Store relocated to Casey Jones Village in 1978. Casey Jones Village, which has grown to be one of the top ten travel attractions in the state, is named for the local railroad hero Casey Jones and is made up of The Old Country Store and the legendary Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum.
Casey Jones Village is now under the leadership of Brooks and Anne Shaw’s son, Clark Shaw, whose wife, Juanita, and children, Elizabeth and Brooks, all work in the business. Deborah, daughter of Brooks and Anne, is the marketing director. It is rare to see a business so centered around family, and I think that is part of what makes The Old Country Store such a special place. The Shaws will always make you feel like one of the family!
The Old Country Store is constantly making changes and additions to make it even more enjoyable to visit. One of those changes is the addition of the white wood store attached to the right of the building. That is the very store that Brooks Shaw worked in as a boy, Wellwood. It was relocated to Casey Jones Village in 2009, after being closed for a number of years. Without the efforts of Clark Shaw, the building would have fallen in, but now it is a part of the country store that it inspired.
One of the things that makes the Old Country Store so wonderful is the nostalgic atmosphere. It is the perfect spot for visitors of our city to experience the Southern life that we all love so much. Of course it is also a great spot for those of us who live here to step away from the bustle of the day and enjoy some good ol' Southern charm.
Kristi Woody is a photographer and storyteller for our Hello Jackson features about locally owned retail stores and restaurants. She also works as the university photographer for Union University and owns her own wedding photography business, Woody & Pearl Photography. In her free time, Kristi enjoys spending time with her husband and rambunctious beagle, Rhett and Chipper respectively. If you can't find Kristi in Jackson, you'll find her in her second favorite place: Disney World!