Mast General Store
The Mast General Store was built, at least the first of its many rooms, in 1882 by Henry Taylor and opened in 1883. Henry had run a much smaller store across the road for many years previous to the building of the new structure. In 1897 half interest in the store was sold to W. W. Mast, a member of a pioneer family that settled in the valley. The store was known as the Taylor and Mast General Store up until 1913 when the remaining half of the enterprise was purchased by W. W.
For the next 60 years, the store was owned and managed by the Mast Family. During that time, W. W. and his family tried to carry all of the items their neighbors might need - from plows to cloth and “Cradles to Caskets,” which led to the popular saying, “If you can't buy it here, you don't need it.”
Credit was extended to all who needed it and payments were often made in trade (a chicken for a sack of flour, and so on). If you wander back in the store, you can see the chicken hatch door in the floor. “In the floor?” you may ask. “That seems like an awfully funny place to put a chicken coop.” As the story goes, a couple of young boys took a chicken to the Farthing Store, a competing general store just two tenths of a mile down the road, and traded with them for merchandise. Their chicken was duly weighed and put out back in the chicken coop. When the storekeeper wasn't watching, they took their just-bartered chicken back and brought it to the Mast Store to trade it again. Therefore, the hatch at the Mast Store was put beneath the floor and secured from the outside to prevent those individuals who wanted to get more than they bargained for.
In addition to being the community gathering place, the store also served many other needs over the years. It provided an office for Dr. Perry - one of Watauga County's first doctors. It was a place for wildcrafters to bring their roots and herbs in exchange for store credit. And in the aftermath of the '40 Flood, it provided a site for mourners to gather to honor the memory of their lost loved ones.
Operation of the store was passed from W. W. to his son Howard, who continued to run the business in the long-established manner of providing for the needs of the community. Howard passed it along to his son, “H”
The store was sold by the Mast Family in 1973 to a doctor in Atlanta and a professor at Appalachian State University. Around about that same time, the site was named to the National Register of Historic Places as one of the finest remaining examples of an old country general store.
In November of 1977, the doors were closed presumably just for the winter season with hopes of reopening in April of 1978. However, plans did not pan out. Many residents of Valle Crucis banded together in an effort to save the old store and Exxon even helped with the drive to preserve the landmark.
John and Faye Cooper purchased the Mast Store and reopened it in June of 1980. Since that time the store had regained its reputation as “the store that had everything.” The Valle Crucis Post Office reopened in October of 1980, thus giving the valley back its identity.
Oh, by the way, there is an interesting story about the post office. It was said that the post office changed locations - from the Farthing Store (staunch Republicans) to the Mast Store (dyed-in-the-wool Democrats) - depending upon what political party was in power. How would you like to get up in the morning after an election and not know just exactly where to go get your mail?
The Rest is Recent History
The operation has expanded in much that same manner as when W. W. Mast was operating the establishment (several Mast General Stores were located in the area and operated by brothers and other family members). The Annex was opened in 1982; the Old Boone Mercantile was opened in 1988; the Little Red Schoolhouse was opened in 1989; the Waynesville store was opened in 1991; the Hendersonville location was opened in August 1995, a store in Asheville joined the Mast Store family in 1999; the first location outside of North Carolina is located on Main Street in Greenville, SC and opened in March 2003. In August of 2006, Mast Store Knoxville, the first in Tennessee, opened on Gay Street. The newest “old” location in Columbia, SC, opened in May 2011.