There's pickled corncob jelly and Jiffy corn muffin mix, sweet potato pecan butter and Frosted Flakes. There's motor oil, Palmolive dish soap, pickled squash and peach preserves. There's a basket of farm fresh potatoes next to cans of Pringles. And there are fresh "goodies" each week: "tomatoes, kohlrabi, cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash, green beans, and yes ... some of our famous cantaloupes (and yes they are awesome)," wrote the store owner in an email to regular customers.
"We also have eggs, pork, peppers, and probably something else I've forgotten."
This is Frosty Trading Post, established in 1953 per the carved wooden sign out front.
Just under 8 miles from Carrboro's town center at the intersection of Jones Ferry and Crawford Dairy roads, Frosty's, as the locals call it, is akin to the more familiar Saxapahaw General Store, minus the cafe and gasoline and plus the magnetic personalities of father and son pair Bobby and Michael Kirk.
The Kirks, of Cane Creek Farms in western Orange County, come from a 100-year-old farming tradition. Over the decades the family has raised milk cattle, grain and vegetables, trained bird dogs, and run a field trial program for English setters. They've boarded horses, offered trail rides and lessons, and hosted deer, quail, grouse, and turkey hunts. But their primary focus these days is raising meat and vegetables for their community-supported agriculture program, a farmers' market stand and Frosty Trading Post.
I sat at a table in the back of the store and watched the customers. One bought a diet Coke and a cinnamon bun. The next purchased a pack of cigarettes, and the man after him, three packs of smokes, a V8 juice and a flat of fresh strawberries.
"If you're going to put some up this year, better do it this week," Bobby Kirk counseled. "If it goes up to 100 degrees later in the week, the season's gonna be over."
A lady in a blue sun dress entered carrying a toddler and bought one bunch of kale and a dozen eggs, followed by a man in tattoos and camouflage shorts, who bought two cans of Pepsi, one regular and one diet. He was also carrying a toddler. Bobby sent the kid home with a lollipop—on the house.
A customer raised the issue of a series of recent burglaries in northern Chatham County, which morphed into a conversation about the plight of veterans and then a generous offering of political opinions.
What became a lively discussion subsided as new customers entered. A lady asked for a Black & Mild, just one, and another woman purchased a jar of the farm's local honey.
"What kind of honey is it?," she wanted to know."Orange blossom?"
There are no orange trees at Cane Creek Farms, but "ee've got 30 acres of produce, woods, flowers and wildflowers" where the bees feed, Bobby told her.
"It's real good," he said, "you'll like it."
Between customers Bobby told me about the music jam Frosty hosts on Thursday evenings, where about 30 folks show up. "Old time, soul, gospel, rock and roll . . . we play whatever," he said. "Whoever wants to come can come."
I must hear the song about Frosty's, Bobby insisted, which I'd have to ask Frank Crabtree, the son of the man who founded and built Frosty's, to sing for me.
I didn't have to wait long. Frank and his grandkids Christopher and Stephanie walked through the door a few minutes later for Gatorades, on break from hauling hay. The older gentlemen teased Stephanie for wearing shorts for field work while Frank recounted the genealogy of the trading post:
Frank's forefathers have been farming and doing business in these parts since the 1700s, the land granted to them by the king of England. His father built the store in 1953 as C.P. Crabtree's Trading Post and ran it for several years before returning to electrical work. He rented the store out in the late 1950s, and it became Crane's Trading Post. Frank's father came back to it before he retired, renaming it Frosty Trading Post, because "way back when, this community was called Frosty," Frank told me, "It had a post office."
Frank's sister ran the store for 28 years, until about 2010, Frank estimated. It changed hands once more before settling into its current iteration with the Kirks as lessees of the building and owners of the business.
When I asked about the song, he wouldn't sing it for me. There wasn't a guitar and "you don't sing and put up hay on the same day," he said.
But he did say that the song is called "The Old Country Store," and that a neighbor, "just through the woods," once recorded it for him.
"We sold 100 records," Frank said, "maybe." The song's claim to fame, he told me, is that WRAL's Tar Heel Traveler played it during a short about Frosty's in 2008.
As the Crabtrees returned to their hayfields, Michael Kirk arrived with fresh supplies to restock the store. He unloaded zucchini, Klondike bars, ice cream sandwiches and Drumsticks. His bustling about was my cue to let the Kirks get back to business, but Bobby insisted that I admire the hand-painted sign by Heart Song Signs of Dunn, on my way out the door.
It has a quotation from Thomas Jefferson: "Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Come on, sit for a spell."