Cove Creek Store revamps
by Kellen Moore
For more than 50 years, the Sugar Grove store has been a community landmark, a provider of necessities and a gathering place for locals to grab a cup of coffee and share news and gossip.
Now, the familiar old store is getting new life due to a change in ownership and a complete renovation.
Owners Dan and Amy Sheffey said they hope to keep that community-oriented feeling while expanding the offerings at the store, located at the intersection of U.S. 321 and Old U.S. 421.
“It’s the only thing out here, really, as far as this type of business,” Dan Sheffey said. “Our customer base is going to be our neighbors, and we like that.”
The Sheffeys moved to Vilas full-time after living in the Virgin Islands for about 20 years. Dan was originally from Arkansas and Amy from Alabama, so their Southern roots called them back.
In the Virgin Islands, the couple owned a deli and restaurant for about 15 years. They purchased their home in Vilas about five or six years ago and visited when they could.
“When we were finally able to sell our business, we high-tailed it up here,” Dan Sheffey said.
The couple purchased the Cove Creek Store and property about three weeks ago, took it over Sept. 11 and closed it Sept. 23 for a complete overhaul, he said.
After gutting the 6,200-square-foot structure, contractors installed new flooring, painted the walls and replaced the shelves. They put up new gas pumps and plan to install new restrooms accessible from inside the store.
When the store reopens — they hope on Oct. 8, Dan Sheffey said — it will offer everything from hardware supplies and livestock feed to fountain sodas and premade sandwiches and lunch items.
Eventually, the Sheffeys hope to add a full deli to the store.
“Being the only place and offering a wide variety of stuff, I think, has been their key to success in the past and hopefully in the future,” Dan Sheffey said.
That past dates back to about 1957, when the building first opened as a country store, he said.
The building was destroyed in a fire in 1968 and rebuilt, Sheffey said. Mike Harrigan, A.B. Hodges and the late Harvey Gilliam purchased the store in the early 1980s.
Harrigan and his wife, Linda, stopped by the shop Tuesday to examine the progress.
Harrigan, who also owns Vilas Grocery, said he “had four screws loose” when they purchased the store 32 years ago.
For many years, Cove Creek Store was a regular country store. Shoppers would come in, fill buggies and do all of their shopping there, Harrigan said.
As shopping preferences changed, the Cove Creek Store stayed viable by sparing residents from having to drive all the way to Boone.
“Our bread and butter is local people,” Harrigan said. “Anything else is gravy.”
While Harrigan said it will be difficult for him to cease his twice-daily visits to oversee the store, he is pleased to see the store transfer to new hands.
He said he had planned to close the store if the deal had not occurred.
“I’m happy to move on,” Harrigan said.
Linda Harrigan said she was impressed with the clean, bright and updated space.
“It looks like a completely different place,” she said.
Despite the tremendous changes they’re making, the owners plan to keep the existing employees and are striving to remain a familiar place to Watauga residents.
Amy Sheffey acknowledged that it can be difficult to accept change in a small, rural community.
“It’s just going to be a shock to their system, because they’ve had it the same way for so many years,” she said.