Sunrise Grocery started supplying the Choestoe Valley, which means "Land of the Dancing Rabbits" in Cherokee and local lore, back in the early 1920's. I can picture Mr. Rawlins showing up early in the morning with a cup of coffee to start breaking ground for Sunrise when he noticed the beautiful sunrise that come up over the mountains in the distance. Then, he knew there was no other name for this store other than Sunrise Grocery. Sunrise has a long and interesting history. Sunrise has always been here for the local folks here in the valley, it's been a place to stop and gather necessities for the visitors of the mountains for years, and it's where Appalachia started to run through my soul.
Back in the early days travel was difficult so Sunrise was really important to the locals. It was a place to buy and trade goods, a place to hang out to sip on old Coca-Cola, and even tales of bootleggin' get told every once in a while. I wish these old walls could talk. The stories they could tell would be a great book. When the 1940's came along Sunrise added a little section for Sunrise Grill. Mr R.M. Dyer (pictured with the coca-cola) use to work the grill. He said we had the best burger in the mountains! We recently found evidence of the old bootleggin days. When Ole Larry, as we call him, and I were working on the store adding new shelving we uncovered 7 bottles of old liquor. They were pushed under an old table that probably hadn't been moved in 40 years. I even gave one to the older fella who gave Sunrise its bootlegging reputation (who will remain nameless) when he stopped by to check on old Sunrise. He got a good laugh out of it. He said they probably got pushed under there when he thought the revenuers were stoppin by to check him out.
Sunrise has also been a go to for all the people looking to get away. All those looking to slow down their lives and breathe in our fresh mountain air. When people come up and rent a place to stay, like our Sunrise River Cabins, or camp at one of the local campgrounds, like Vogel State Park and Trackrock Campground, they depend on us for supplies. We sell firewood, fishing supplies, and the one thing that has been constant for Sunrise through the years, local goods. We try to support local talent and farmers by carrying handmade pottery, jams n jellies, pickled goods, handmade natural soaps, local grown fruits n veggies , knitting, and my very own photography. Many generations have been coming into Sunrise over the years. Each with their own memories and stories which make Sunrise important to them and their trip. Our mission is to give you that authentic Appalachian experience. It's even the theme of our logo, the Banjo Man. I love the thought of an old man from these mountains sitting in his chair on a porch picking his banjo. True Appalachia!
Sunrise Grocery has been in my family since my parents bought the store from Mr. Comer Saxon in 1983. It all started when our family made it's own trip to Trackrock campground. I remember stopping into Sunrise and walking in to purchase some goods when my dad jokingly told Mr. Saxon, "I'll buy this place from ya." Comer quickly answered, "Ok." That was all it took! My life changed at that moment! Soon after I was kicking and screaming in the car with mom who was following dad in a Uhaul. Dad and mom worked their tails off making Sunrise their own. Giving it the Clemmons stamp. I took over around 1997 and have been there ever since. Sunrise is my roots into these mountains. It is where I become Souled in Appalachia! Sunrise now stands as the oldest business in Union County. I think Sunrise represents everything Appalachia stands for. Just an ole little store on the side of a mountain road doing the best we can.
Jesica and I plan on being here for the long haul. It's where we belong and it's our link to the past of these old mountains. It's hard to say what Sunrise will bring to the future of this area but one thing is for sure; we won't forget what makes Sunrise, Sunrise! Souled in Appalachia is just a branch of this old place. It's a place to tell stories, share images, and where we want to take you back in time, while others want to push you forward. We want to take you with us as we travel and search this region we call Appalachia. Jes and I are both excited about this adventure. She is so smart and has this desire to read and learn the history of our area. Eventually she will probably be putting a book together knowing her. I want my camera to be a microphone so the mountains can share their stories with you through it. Together we both think this will be special. A place to visualize and feel what it's like to be, Souled in Appalachia.