In 1930, my grandfather, Emmett Wilbarger, built and ran a small gas station just outside of Bridgewater, Virginia. He repaired cars in the back garage. My mom inherited the store in 1946, and both she and my father continued the tradition until 1975. They sold farm fresh eggs, crates of cheese, and locally made potato chips. Folks often came in just to talk, or to ask my dad if they could buy on credit. He would “jot ’em down.” Monday nights were reserved for the local bluegrass jam. The barber traveled to our store on Mondays and as a kid I sat upon the red leather, marble armed throne. He cut my hair his usual way, as if girls looked stylish with a “bowl cut,” crooked bangs, ears revealed.
With the advent of franchise driven stores, the independent gas station became a thing of the past. My dad could travel to town and buy gas for less than his wholesale cost.
I guess I must have subconsciously missed that old store. My kids were off to college or in high school, and I needed a new career. With that in mind, Good Natured came into being. Jim and I opened our store in October of 2007. Our original intent was to become the neighborhood general store, specializing in eco-friendly products. In reality, today’s “eco-friendly” really looks a lot like the things that my family sold – local, simple and well made.
Over the past 8 1/2 years, I’ve come to realize that food is the driving force here at Good Natured, from the groceries and produce we sell to the homemade soups, sandwiches, and desserts prepared in the cafe. In October of 2010 we “opened the door” to a new restaurant space.
We added an additional 600 square feet of dining room in the back of the store, which is handicap accessible and seats 45. That’s a lot of people to cook for. After all, I’m just a mom who happens to run a cafe. However, the new room gives us an opportunity to hold larger music concerts, movies and community events.
As for the store, I’ve put my heart into buying local and American made products. I see the direct results of “Made in China”, and the loss of so many jobs here at home. It’s not that I’m against globalization, but I am against paying someone $1 a day to make inexpensive, throwaway goods. Look through our web site and find the things you need and be happy with your purchase of a sustainable, well made product.
Our lives changed again last year when my lifelong friend and partner Jimmy died from cancer. Now the store is being shepherded through that change by my son, Jacob Smith and our friend, India Watson. I love them both and hope that you will consider them to be the new face of Good Natured.