Monday, November 10, 2008

Azariah Graves Building (Yanceyville)

"Brown's To Get New Life As Country Store"

By Angela Evans
4 November 2008
Managing Editor
© The Caswell Messenger

Brown's Seafood will soon have new life. Charles and Christina Ward, of Anderson, recently bought the former restaurant and are planning to turn it into a country store. The Wards plan to sell coffee, gifts and bakery goods. Christina Ward said the store will sell goat's milk soap and cheese and other products the couple make on their farm like baskets, wood crafts, jewelry and pottery. "She does pottery and I do woodworking," Charles said. "But it's simpler to start off with a wholesaler and then build as we go." Christina said the store will also offer fresh-made sandwiches and some organic foods, coffees and teas.

"We have a farm, and last summer we planted vegetables, and we had an abundance," she added. Charles said the couple plans to restore Brown's to its original state. The older part of the building is about 200 years old and the newer side is about 70 years old, he said. What does restoring it entail? "Quit a bit," Charles said. "We're gonna try and blend this side with the other side a little better." The old bar top will be the new countertop for the store. "We're coming up with different ideas as we go," Charles said.

Owning a country store has long been a dream for Christina; and when her mother died, Christina knew it was time to act. "When my mom passed away in 2002 that's when I stopped doing computer work; so I decided I wanted something more," Christina said. "Because my mom passed away a year after she realized her dream." Christina explained that her mother had always wanted to have a large building built. Having realized that accomplishment with the construction of a three-story office building in 2001, her mother died only a year later of colon cancer. Christina said shortly after her mother's death she also lost a brother to colon cancer and another brother is currently in remission. The illness and death in her family served as a wakeup call to Christina, who wants to be able to live her dream for as long as possible.

"Instead of sitting in a cubicle I decided I'd do what I always wanted to do," Christina said. "I still sit in a cubicle," Charles interjected, laughing. Charles works for fidelity investments as a software engineer, so, he said, Christina will mainly be the one running the store. The couple has started cleaning the old restaurant and with the help of a contractor and the Historic Preservation Society in Raleigh, hopes to have the store open in February. "We're going to get some tips from them to try and make sure we stick to the historic," Charles said. "We're going to upgrade some of the restaurant equipment, get newer stuff as we need it."

Work will begin on the roof next week, but the plumbing and electrical have already been upgraded. "All the hard stuff, in my opinion, has been done," Charles said. The Wards say former owner Jimmy Watkins is excited to see the couple opening the business and he's happy with the name they have chosen. "We're going to call it Azariah's Old Storehouse," Charles said, explaining that Azariah Graves was the original builder and that Watkins had always wanted to call the building by Graves' name, but that the restaurant had already been named Brown's when Watkins acquired it. The Wards say they are nervous and excited about the store, and hope the community will get excited too.

Christina has contacted Piedmont Community College about the possibility of having students in art classes participate in a period re-enactment with art and costumes for the store's opening. "We're excited to maybe get the square back up and going too," Charles added. The first time the Wards looked at the building, there was a tour bus parked across the street. "We said 'Let's buy it,'" Christina said with a huge anticipatory smile. The couple also has plans for growth on their farm, where they have dairy goats and miniature donkeys. They plan to add alpacas. The miniature donkeys act as security for the goats, Christina explains, and they plan to start breeding them, Charles adds. "They run after dogs or coyotes," she said. "We're working on it now. We started with infrastructure had fencing put in got a few animals," Charles said. "We'll get more animals." Sometime next summer, he said, the farm will open up to tours for school children.

More Photographs

Azariah Graves (1776-1837)

Azariah Graves died in 1837 after many years as a business man in what was then called "Caswell Courthouse". The upper floor of his office building in Yanceyville (Azariah Graves Store House) formed his living quarters, and the establishment may have been one of those mentioned by Bartlett Yancey in his 1810 letter describing Caswell County. Fuel for the two big fireplaces was stored in the full basement, and the store's window shutters had bars. The building later was a newspaper office.

Source: Yanceyville Walking Tour

Caswell County Family Tree