Our "Moonshine" History
These old photos show the time when Sunrise Grocery was called 'Sunrise Grill'. It must have been a popular wayside stop for locals and travelers. We are hopeful that someone will be able to better identify these pictures and the folks (in their Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes) who are in them.
Although the exact date of origin of the original business in this location is not now known, it is certain the Sunrise Grocery began life as a Pure Oil gasoline station in the early 1920's. An early deed shows that one J.D. Henson sold the property to James Ravan in 1926. A certificate issued to Claude Rawlins in 1927 hangs on the wall over the door, relating the change in ownership and the switch from Pure Oil to Gulf Oil Company. A bit of local yore tells that Claude's wife may have run away with the bait man...or the milk man, or the tobbacco vendor! Who knows for sure?!
In the early years of the store, the road in front of it was busy all day with rumbling logging trucks. No doubt they stopped in for fuel or food or a 'chaw of tobbaccy'. Business evolved into what we might today call a "convenience store" of sorts, with the various owners stocking whatever seemed to be needed for their customers.
In the 1940's, it became known as Sunrise Grill, a short-order roadside cafe where one might get a plate of eggs and country ham, or a burger with fixin's, and a great cup of coffee flavored with a little friendly conversation. Old photos above were taken during this era.
By the 1980's, it was a local institution on Highway 129 and the domain of Comer Saxon. It was Saxon who was behind the counter, mulling over a chaw of tobacco, that Bob Clemmons met one evening during his family's mountain vacation. Bob and Christine (his English bride) lived in Florida with little Jason. They had come camping at Vogel State Park and visited Sunrise Grocery for supplies when Bob encountered Comer. Bob is reported to have said to Comer, "I'll buy this place from ya!" Somehow the Clemmons family ended up at the Saxon home for dinner, and the deal was consumated. They returned to Florida where Bob retired from his job, and three months later they moved to Georgia. (With Jason and Christine crying all the way, says Jason!)
Bob and Christine molded the little store into a colorful wayside stop, building on the seasonal fare that Georgia has to offer -- apples, pumpkins, fall foliage, peaches...and 'bulled p-nuts'. As Jason says, "I think produce is in Dad's blood." And the front of the store offered bins of whatever was ripe at the time.
The Clemmons lived in a lovely brick home on the hillside by the store, and this is where Jason grew up. In the 1990's, they purchased land on the Nottely River nearby, and built two "cabins" in the Appalachian mountain style. These are now Sunrise Riverside Cabins, luxury vacation rentals where folks can come to enjoy the four seasons of splendor in the North Georgia Mountains.
After going away to college and "finding himself", young Jason returned to Union County and is now the owner of the little grocery and cabins. So another generation gives flavor and flair to the story of Sunrise Grocery.
Jason takes great pride in the life of the little store, always offering information about local fare and fishing. Christie's love of mountain crafts and artisan wares has resulted in a delightful offering of jams and jellies, baskets, bath and body products, and flowers.
Little Ian Clemmons (see FISHING) is enthralled with the live bait, both crickets and worms, and has become quite the sales man at only age 5. Meredith and Lulu (the family Sheltie) have a lemonade stand at the store during the summer.
Sunrise Grocery is a family affair...and it's a fun place to visit!