Carroway’s General Store


Phyllis Crady at Carroway's General Store, Ida, Louisiana

Phyllis Crady, co-proprietor of Carroway’s General Store in Ida, Louisiana carries the torch for a tradition that began in 1926. The store started then as Perry Mercantile. The store and restaurant are managed and operated by a complete staff of women.

Update − January 25, 2014:

I am advised by good authority that Carroway’s General Store and Restaurant and store will reopen in February, 2014. Ain’t that grand!

Update − August 6, 2010:

Unfortunately, Carroway’s General Store has fallen victim to the economic pressure of the times and is now closed. The windows are not boarded and the external appearance remains essentially the same as what you see in this post and on Corndancer.com.

This story had its beginnings on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. To see other pictures of Carroway’s and get in on the start of the story, click here, a very cool thing to do.

A succession of owners since 1926 have kept structural and equipment changes to a minimum at Carroway’s General Store in Ida, Louisiana. The store started business as Perry Mercantile. Two years after they started the business, the Perrys sold the store to the Carroway’s who operated it for forty years. Since the store left the hands of the Carroways, it has gone through several ownership changes. Most of the time, when a business changes hands a lot, it tends to lose its original identity, pandering to the current ego-in-charge. Carroway’s has not suffered that fate.

The current owners, Phyllis and Grady Crady are continuing that honored and proven tradition of keeping things the same as much as possible. Phyllis is quick to point out that the retail fixtures, shelving and some of the old business machines and hardware are vintage. Being a modern business, the store uses modern business equipment, but the vintage equipment is kept in plain sight. Customer service is definitely and delightfully “out of the past.”

The expansive front porch at Carroway's General store in Ida, Louisiana

Carroway’s front porch is an inviting and relaxing place. It provides a place for “visiting,” and work breaks. It is also a popular venue for politicians making election year “stump” speeches. Former governors Huey P. Long, Earl Long, and musician-turned-governor Jimmie Davis are among the notables who have availed themselves of Carroway’s front porch.

Carroway’s shelves are stocked with a big variety of merchandise ranging from groceries and household supplies to hardware and antiques, the latter of which sometimes bears some explanation. Phyllis Crady says store visitors sometimes have misconceptions about what they  find in the store. “I hear the question, ‘ … is this a museum? … ‘, I quickly tell them that this is a store and what you see is for sale. For that matter, so is the store.”

Carroway's General store original shelving and cabinets

Carroway’s General Store shelves stocked with lots of merchandise, old and new. And it’s all for sale. The shelves and glass cases are have been in the store since day one in 1926.

Carroway’s is more than a store. It is also a first class restaurant with a loyal following originating locally and from a fifty-mile radius of Ida. Customers from Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana; Atlanta, Texas, and Texarkana USA show up on a regular basis for breakfast, lunch, and supper, (OK dinner if you insist).

Carroway's General Store Restaurant

Carroway’s General Store Restaurant keeps the down-home tradition in its decor. The glass cabinet to the right contains an eclectic collection of memorabilia. To the curious and to antique aficionados, the cabinet collection is a meal for the eyes, as the menu is for the tummy.

As if a fine general store and a first class restaurant were not enough, the Cradys reestablished the Ida Barbershop, yes a real live barbershop in the store. The barber, JoJo Norton is in the shop every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and during the week by appointment before 9:00 a.m.

JoJo Norton's Ida Barbershop in Carroway's General Store

JoJo Norton’s Ida Barbershop in Carroway’s General Store. A shave and a haircut in today’s economy are somewhat more than six bits, but well worth the trip.

It is probably not a “discovery” to the Cradys that keeping valued traditions alive and well is good for business. In fact, from all outward appearances, it just comes naturally to them. It is said that marketing is “finding out what people want and giving them more of it … and finding out what they don’t like and giving them less of it.” It appears that a succession of Carroway’s proprietors were and are in tune with that concept. Works for me.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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8 Responses

  1. I know you like more than your fair share of general stores, but wow … this place does seem like a museum .. and with a restaurant selling more than a deli sandwich, moon pies, and RC (which in itself is fine).

    Your journeys causes me to wonder about the general stores in my area – wondering if they still exist and if so, how they compare to those in your chronicles. In other words, is their existence regional?

    Nonetheless, thanks for sharing!

    • Frank, good to hear from you. The restaurant menu was rife with some good stuff and is apparently very popular. The trend I’ve found in small town stores is that one has survived while the rest have foundered. They stay open for long hours and the proprietor is “in the house” most of the time. I’m betting this trend is not unique to the south,
      Joe

  2. Hi Joe,

    I am a graduate student at LSU in the department of Geography and Anthropology and have been working with the community of Ida since last October. I really enjoyed your pictures of Carroway’s. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Carroway’s closed down. We (the Mayor, his wife and son, and another LSU grad student) are in the process of creating two community museums in Ida. I don’t know where you are located geographically, but would you be interested in photographing at the grand opening of the 357th Fighter Group Museum? It is July 23-24. I know this is a long shot, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!
    Thanks,
    gENTRY

    • Gentry, I am saddened that Carroways has closed. It is a unique treasure. But, it is also a business and being painfully aware of that dynamic, it is not a stretch of the imagination to understand the whys and wherefores of its demise. Regarding photographing the museum opening, yes indeedy, I am interested in photographing the grand opening. Feed me the details.
      Thanks,
      Joe

  3. […] lot of people remember Ida for its now unfortunately closed Carroway’s General Store. The store fell victim to the times, a not unusual set of circumstances in rural America. […]

    • I have fond memories of carroway’s. during the late 60’s. I remember going with my Uncle Otis Grfiffin, to pick up cattle feed on Saturdays, then going to his farm to feed the cows. I remember looking through all the tools on the wall, dreaming of being big enough to use them all. Well guess what, I’m old enough now (56) and I use them nearly every day. God bless you for keeping the old place in such pristine shape. Keep the faith, business will get better.

  4. Joe:

    I stumbled upon your story this evening while searching the Internet for stories related to the Carroways General Store. The photographs and article you have shared are wonderful.

    We want to report that the store and restaurant will reopen in mid-February 2014. We hope that you will come back and visit again soon.

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