Country store stays true to its roots

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James “Spanky” Pleasants admits that he doesn’t get concerned about the fact that sales are a little slow right now at his country store, Blanton & Pleasants. This long-time Cartersville retail institution has been through — and survived — tough times before. Established in 1929 just before the Great Depression hit, Blanton & Pleasants Inc. celebrated its 80th anniversary in May.

The three-level store sells groceries, lumber, hardware, fishing equipment and garden supplies and a variety of other items. It also has an on-site hair salon and a nine-hole golf course in a pasture out back. Customers are always invited to check out a small collection of antique automobiles in the basement.

“Business is what I would call flat, but we’re in the black,” says Pleasants, 65, who started working in the family business as a barber when he was 16 and now owns the store with his wife, June. “We’ve always tried to be very frugal with our expenses, so we came into 2009 in not that bad of shape.”

The store’s customer base has changed dramatically, as the local farming community has been replaced with housing developments populated largely by Richmond commuters. “Most of them do their major shopping in the city, but if they run short of an item, most times we have it, and we have a few odds and ends that other stores don’t carry,” Pleasants says. “So people are supporting us, and we’re grateful.”

In the 1980s, when the store was the go-to retail establishment for area farmers, the store employed a collection of children, grandchildren, in-laws and extended family members. “We were so busy then we were able to support seven families full-time, but we weren’t able to spend as much time as we wanted talking to our customers,” Pleasants says. “That’s why I enjoy going to work every day — the chance to visit with customers.”

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