Forty minutes south of the buzzing neon and crowded honkytonks of Nashville’s Lower Broadway strip are miles of winding two-lane back roads connecting small towns to more small towns.
Today, it’s easy to pile into the car and make a Target run, but for the folks who still live way out in the sticks, it’s an entire day’s commitment. Back before cars, people had to walk or ride a horse to the town’s general store for supplies.
These little stores were responsible for providing food and goods to their neighbors during WWII and the Great Depression and many still do today! If you want to get out and see what America was living like before the tech boom and Amazon Prime, grab your travel buds and take our one-of-a-kind 28-mile backroad general store tour through southern Tennessee.
You’ll start in Leiper’s Fork and end on the famous Natchez Trace Parkway where you can choose the rest of your adventure.
We’re gonna take you on a country ride through bliss, honey, and bologna sandwiches starting at the original Puckett’s.
Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant of Leiper’s Fork
Morning, noon, or night, this place smells incredible. The smoke from the fire pit out front follows you inside where waitresses have been dancing around the country kitchen since 6:00AM cracking eggs, grilling bacon, and buttering biscuits. This general store/small restaurant/music venue has been a sacred space in the community since the 1950s when the Puckett family first opened shop as a one-stop general store.
Each of the six previous owners has contributed to Puckett’s legacy in a special way. Inspired by the history and the respect the Leiper’s Fork community had for the place, a young music industry professional named Rob Robinson and his wife Shanel bought the place in 2008, with a commitment to keep the community tradition of Puckett’s unchanged. That included keeping the independently owned business’s grocery shelves stocked, the grill hot, and the music flowing as had been established 12 years before by the previous owner, Andy Marshall.
It was Andy’s vision to pull families off their porches and couches and into the store to visit with each other, enjoy a home-cooked meal, and hear good music. Rob and Shanel couldn’t agree more.
As it stands today, you can still stop in and pick up some essentials like bread, paper towels, and milk. The Puckett’s crew has even been known to sell you the eggs from their prep kitchen if you need them! All the recipes come from the Robinson family cookbook and go straight to your plate. We’re talking hoe cakes, chess pie, and the best fried chicken of your life.
Neighbors often ride their bikes to the store for a meal, to enjoy a fire, and to shoot the breeze. It’s very common for these neighbors to be Kid Rock, Wynnona Judd, Justin Timberlake, and Robert Plant, who came in once and wrote ” you need coolin’ ” on the busted cooler. (Which you’ll appreciate if you know the Led Zeppelin tune “Whole Lotta Love”.)
Settle your coffee order on the way out the door then head to the next stop.
Follow the road out of Leiper’s Fork for about eight minutes, past rolling farmland and grazing buffalo and you’ll find yourself at the crossroads of Bending Chestnut Road and Greenbrier Road. There you’ll find Fox’s Grocery and inside waiting to greet you will be Jewel Anderson, from the third generation of the family that established the store and has run it for nearly 100 years.
After a time in the service, Jewel’s grandfather opened the grocery in 1921. She was 5 when she started there, responsible for stocking the shelves, sorting glass bottles, and sweeping the floors. Almost 60 years later, just after her much-beloved grandfather passed away, Jewel quit her teaching job and moved back into her childhood home, just next door, so she could keep the flame of the family business burning.
She’ll tell you stories about how her grandfather had a way of making the store a social hub, and how he loved to crank up the radio and have folks gather around to listen to the Grand Ole Opry together. After a heart attack weakened him, the family bought him a rocking chair and installed a handrail for him so he could still greet his customers, who just as often as not, would sit down and listen while he shared the Bible.
Though he was buried in 1975, his chair, Bible, and handrail still have a place of honor in the store, just under his portrait hanging on the wall.
In its heyday, folks would arrive by horse and buggy for feed, hardware, penny candy, and flour sacks to make dresses. Just above the register is a spool of string that still dangles to tie up bags of beans and sugar. You’ll find just about anything here — from fabric softener to Daisy BBs to soda and shoelaces.
Jewel is famous for her $3 thick-cut bologna sandwiches on traditional white bread with a generous smear of mayo and a cold Kraft single. This is a good place to drop the tailgate or sit on the porch and enjoy the simplicity surrounding you. Fox’s also offers 100% pure gas! At $2.63 a gallon, this is a smart place to fill up before you get back on the road.
Davis General Merchandise
Just past Leiper’s Fork is Boston, Tennessee and that’s your next stop. Davis General Merchandise was built in 1929 after the railroad track that ran out front was torn up and turned into a road. It’s been the community’s general store for almost 90 years and the Davis family bought it about a half-century ago.
Today it is run by the brother and sister duo who grew up in the store, Joey and Patsy Davis. Joey is the businessman and Patsy makes the deli fare, including homemade chicken salad, turkey, and you guessed it, bologna sandwiches. Feed for horses, cows, and chickens is sold out back and gas is available out front. And in season, you can pick up locally-produced honey and home-grown tomatoes.
With the closest big-name supermarket almost 40 minutes away, Joey and Patsy have done a great job stocking the shelves with your basics: bread, milk, dog food, tools, paper plates, pasta sauce, and power steering fluid.
The decor reminds you of walking into someone’s home. To enter, you cross a large covered front porch, then go through double screen doors and make your way to the back and the wood-burning stove with a tea kettle on it. The rocking chairs are draped with sweaters and floral cushions, old photos of mom and dad sit pretty in frames, a deer mount keeps an eye over the place, and two old men at the kitchen table are talking small town life.
Before you leave, challenge your friend to a game of checkers on the pickle barrel. Loser buys a plate of meat and three at the next stop on the general store tour, which is perfect because the place you’re about to go is known for its down-home cooking.
After leaving Davis, you’ll drive about 12 miles through two-lane back roads on the Old Tennessee Trail ‘til you arrive at the red-roofed treasure known as Netts, in Bethel, Tennessee.
This is the definition of picturesque. There’s a stray white cat hiding behind an old pickup truck, a church to the left, and a steady current in Leiper’s Creek to the right. The field behind the store is buzzing with noisy crickets looking to add some appropriate country ambiance to your general store tour experience. Walk up the steps to the front porch and you’ll see a flyer selling cows and fresh eggs.
If you were to come in here on a weekend you’d have to wait for a table because if there’s one thing Nett is good at, it’s home cooking.
On Sundays, Nett serves traditional southern meat and three lunch, cafeteria-style, from 11:00 AM-3:00PM for about $7. Fried chicken, catfish, green beans, and creamed potatoes are always on the menu and are made with love from her personal cookbook. If you’re up for it, Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for frog’s legs dinners. Ask Nett where the legs come from and she’ll just smile and wink and say, “The same place we get everything else.”
Nett is the sixth owner of the store, open since 1910. What began 12 years ago as a crazy business venture for Nett, her husband, and their daughter, has turned into a new tradition for the community. Celebrities drop in for her cooking too — Clay Walker, Hank Williams Jr, and Billy Currington. And when Dolly pops in, she always orders — you guessed it — a bologna sandwich.
People come from miles to hear the deer head on the wall wish them happy birthday. Look closely and you’ll see Nett with a microphone in her pocket controlling the interactive deer mount. (She likes to make the deer sing and talk back to patrons while they enjoy their meal.)
On your way out the door to the final stop on the tour, grab a few scoops of shelled Virginia peanuts out of the yellow sack up front and pay what they weigh. Be sure if that deer says “goodbye” to you that you say it back!
The last spot on our tour is not only the oldest but also the winner of the most unique decor. Located four minutes down the road from Netts, in Fly, Tennessee, Fly’s is anything but plain, just like its fifth-generation owner, Wilson Fly.
While he may hide behind a beard and seem quiet, don’t be deterred! He is always excited to talk to visitors, which is a good thing because they stream into the store all day long. Neighbors (delete comma) like Miranda Lambert come in to buy odds and ends, grandparents come in with grandkids to buy candy, and cyclists are always pulling off the road to grab a bite before they continue on their ride.
Fly’s has been accommodating the community since the family started the general store in 1890, around the same time as the Panic of 1893, the presidency of Benjamin Harris, and the creation of the Tootsie Roll.
The family also prides themselves on having contributed to the local happiness and well-being by selling 25-pound bags of sugar to moonshiners during Prohibition. The history vibe inside this place is reminiscent of your grandpa’s catch-all barn. Inside, treasures like an old hornet’s nest, deer antlers, cans of motor oil, old Saltines tins, Argo laundry starch, and tools are plastered from floor to ceiling. In the front window, you’ll find the leg braces Wilson wore after he was diagnosed with polio when he was 18 months old.
It’s impossible not to check out Wilson’s handmade birdhouses, furniture, and other wood projects in the yard on your way out of the store. On the back of each of his pieces, he burns the Native American sign for the dragonfly as a trademark and homage to his ancestors who believe that the dragonfly is a symbol for good luck.
If you’re still hungry after all that traveling before you head out you can ask Wilson to make you just one more bologna sandwich for the road . . .
At this point, you are just a few miles away from the famous Natchez Trace Parkway. Follow it 440 miles south and you’ll find yourself in Natchez, Mississippi where more adventures are sure to find you. When out exploring on two lanes always remain curious, come hungry, and pay a visit to these backroad businesses that have supported and loved their neighbors for all these years.
Our favorite Two Lanes by Mike Wolfe saying is printed in off-white and dark green on a super soft, heather olive green tee. Made in the USA. SHOP NOW!
58 thoughts on “Backroad General Store Tour”
I really enjoyed your backroad general store tour. My wife and I will put this road tour on our travel bucket list. Thanks Sarah, Bob Madlem
Hi, Bob. I wanted to share yet another store, not shown, as it’s currently not opened. I have just purchased the old store in Theta, right along this same trail. 2278 Les Robinson Rd. it is the grandest of them all. We are beginning restoration on this 150 year old store and will be opening soon. Served the community back in the day as a general mercantile, lots of history. Beautiful building with a wrap around upper walkway that was used as dental office, post office, and many other general uses. We will have the doors open as we are working. Please stop by and say hello if you are in the area.
Denise Hopkins, owner
What city is your store in, Denise? We’re remodeling an old garage in New Market, in East Tennessee and looking forward to opening it this year as an old-fashioned general store. We’ll stop by to see you the next time we’re in the Nashville area.
We are in Columbia, TN. Opening next weekend finally. Check out my Facebook page, Theta General Store
Thanks and hope to see you soon.
Good luck with your store!
Mike you need to go to Crossville, Tn and go north, this state is full of those kind of stores. Up around Oneida there is still one that keeps the credits on a pad from way back. Its up in the Amish part of Tn. Another adventure is to get on hwy 72 and travel down to Memphis, plenty of those kind of stores and the mom and pop lunches on the way. Spent 11 hours on that hwy one time, saw towns Ive never heard of too, lol. Have a good trip .
I have reached out several times inviting the pickers to join the American Truck Historical Society’s National Convention and Truck show in Des Moines May 25-27.
We will have over 1000 vintage and antique trucks on display at the fairgrounds! We thought you would be interested not only because of the history of trucking displayed but also because it is in your home state- no one ever gets back to me though- we are non-profit so cannot pay a huge fee for you to come but certainly believe it is something you might want to support by attending-
The ATHS headquarters is located in Kansas City – we are the keepers of trucking transportation history!
Thank you for “taking me home”. I raised my kids tucked away on 10 acres of pure heaven right in the middle of your tour route… I can still hear the “creek and slam” of the screen doors on those precious little stores. I remember trying to get the kids to school early enough to make it to Pucketts before the last tenderloin biscuit was sold. Digging deep into the cola chest for the elusive Fanta Grape drink while waiting for my bologna sandwich left me with cold hands and an even colder first-swig of grape perfection… Thank you again. I so enjoyed the ride through my favorite back roads… I can smell the thick sweet scent of the privit and lilacs. I hope I go back there tonight in my dreams.
Wow… thanks for taking US back with your description of tenderloin biscuits and cold cooler hands at Puckett’s, Veanne! Come back soon!
Come see us at the santa Fe diner. It’s was a family home where the children born in the house in the 30’s early forties. It’s been a diner for at least 40 years. We just remodeled and Clay, and Luke Colmbs frequent. We are full of history. We serve plate lunches daily and catfish every Friday. We welcome you to our diner.
We are mostly about top quality genuine antiques now, but the building here was The Hollifield General Store dating back to mid-1950’s. We did keep some of the old traditions, such as boiled peanuts lovingly made on the premises, a 1953 Coke cooler filled with retro drinks, such as RC, Nehi Grape, and the like. Great fun, and lots of memories, in the antiques, and the building! If you happen to dip down into the beautiful North Georgia Mountains, near Clayton, and incredible Lake Burton (a mile from here), please stop in. You’ll be glad you did!!
Sounds magnificent, Jim. We’d love to drop by for a cold RC!
Thanks for writing, Sarah! We’d love to have you come by for a visit, or better yet, plan to stay the weekend in our newly completed 1929 C&O Railway caboose! Pretty swanky.
Finalizing things now to put the word out.
Is there any chance that’s the caboose that was wrapped up in thicket along the roadside going to Santa Fe?
No, this one was purchased in and moved from Franklin, NC. Thanks for your interest!
Thanks, Jim… I’m hoping my “mansion being prepared in heaven” started out as a caboose!
I heard you talking about a Dino Dinosaur. I thought I would let you know I know where a very nice one is located.
It is in Beckley WVA t use to be called Chamber Oil.
That is on Eisenhower Drive Road. Right after you pass Cannberry Showing center is is behind the oil company.
Hope you find it.
Thanks for looking out, Linda!
Nice revisit to my old stomping grounds. I grew up patronizing every one of these country stores. There were quite a few more of them in the area, but they closed as the owners aged, and times changed. I went to school with Wilson Fly, and Nett’s was called Carlisle’s Store decades ago. In fact I am fairly certain I bought gas in 1998 from the same pump at Nett’s. These stores provided farmers in the past with just about everything they needed. If you can believe this, they carried their customers on credit back in the 60’s. Most stores carried feed, and many other farming supplies. With the completion of 840 in Williamson county nearby, the city has moved to the country. These stores were the hub of the community. In fact Nett’s used to take messages for people in the area who had no telephone. When you went in the store, the owner would tell you to call so and so because they had left a message for you. There are quite a few stores in the general area that are closed, and in fact some have been torn down. The photos take me back to my teenage years, just about 50 years ago. Nett’s was famous for a “baloney” sandwich made by Mr. Henry Carlisle.
Check us out. Facebook, Theta General Store. Opening weekend after labor day
Check out the old Delina Store in the heart of Delina,TN. For a great breakfast, lunch then on Friday’s they have catfish,frog legs and gator and live music until 8:00pm. Store date back to late 1800 early 1900 well worth your trip with beautiful sites nothing like the old place where people still gather another one we have been to is the old Berlin Store on hwy 431 just out of Lewisburg, TN. They serve some good meals. We have been to Leipers Puckett’s great place saw Tim&Faith there as well as Billy Ray also went to Fly bought blue bird houses from him. Love the back roads old stores no interstate if we can help it!
We still have a general store here on Anderson Island, WA. At 3.5 x 5.5 miles we’re too small to support anything resembling a supermarket, and it costs over $15 to take the ferry to town.
I’d attach a picture but there doesn’t seem to be any way to do it — Our GS looks just like any other picturesque general store with its stack of firewood, ice freezer, bulletin board, poster on the window showing this is a US Mail sub-station. Out back a small patio is surrounded by sheds where they keep the hardware, gardening supplies and animal feed. And yes, there are rusty gas pumps. But not all is rural throwback: the photo shows a guy sitting out front, engrossed in his laptop. These days the general store — or as we jokingly call it, the Mall — is the Island WiFi hotspot!
as I live in salt lake I do rember park city[ski town] small I loved it old mines /small pleases to eat /walk streets now big town many people I hate it now
Thanks for the ride. It was so good, so vividly expressed, I swear I could hear the old wood floors creak as I walked into each store, and my mouth is still savoring that last bite of bologna sandwich!!!
Thanks for sharing your general store tour Mike!
Wow that was a really interesting read…. The old shops looked amazing and welcoming , makes me wanna pack my bags and fly over just to do this route ……..
Do it, Nick!
Do you know of any General Store which stated out as a Trading Post? Who has the longest established General Store?
We are in Columbia, TN. Opening next weekend finally. Check out my Facebook page, Theta General Store, circa 1885.
Thanks and hope to see you soon
If you get the opportunity, stop by the Service Drug Store in Graceville Florida. They do have a website. They’ve been there since the early 1900’s. Still have a soda fountain. Original hardwood floors. Awesome place.
Looks amazing. Meet us at the soda fountain, Connie!
The Cumberland Mountain General Store is located on Highway 127 in Clarkrange. We are just 15 miles north of I-40 at exit 317. We were established in 1923 as the Todd, McDonald General Store. In the late 70’s the store was going to be demolished and was subsequently purchased and moved to our current location in 1980. We are an antiques an collectibles store with a very large and varied inventory of both old and new items. In 1992 the Rock-a-Billy Diner was opened in the back of store. We pride ourselves on being an authentic 1950’s diner. Our soda fountain bar came out of a diner and was constructed around 1947. The milkshake machines the we still use to make shakes and malts all come the 1940’s to our newest one from the early 1950’s. One of them was possibly sold by Ray Kroc to the McDonald brothers before he bought restaurants from them. From May through October the store is open 7 days a week, the Rock-a-Billy Diner is open for lunch 11-2 Wednesday – Friday and Saturday and Sunday 11-4. It’s best to call ahead for large groups and to verify that we are open. On the fourth Friday of each month from April – October we have a cruise-in with all types of vehicles. Store 931-863-3880
Wow. This sounds incredible! Love to drop by next time we’re over that way! Keep going!!
Do any of these stores have gasoline storage tanks still in the ground that need to be removed?
This is what the South is all about ! We take these kind of side-trips all the time. And this one is all
mapped out. Adding this to our bucket-list of backroads adventure. From the guy who sold all of those
motorcycle racing trophies to the store in Nashville. Thanks !
I just love old country stores,and old grocery stores,with wood floors old soda machines. Big windows in front, a couple of tables around the old heating stove,with a nice fire to keep the place warm. Thanks Rick
I love your tours and I think your storytelling is first rate. I’d have to say though that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable walking into Fly’s with the confederate flag flying right there on the porch and behind the counter. How do I know my kind is welcome?
Pucketts was amazing. If I get down that way again, I will stop for sure. Also Pucketts is in Franklin TN is also amazing with live entertainment and excellent food. I recommend anyone make it a destination stop.
Thanks for putting this up. Like you, I’ve come to love that area of the country and have spent many fine days exploring the backroads of midddle-Tn. I’ve stopped in at all of those stores and ridden all of those roads. Family has taken me back up north but I still return when I can, and Puckett’s Lieper’s Fork is certainly on my list of must stops whenever I get back. Keep the stories coming!
You got it Patrick!
My boyfriend and I just visited Nashville August 25th through August 28th, 2017. We are from Pennsylvania. We went to Nashville for the soul purpose of visiting the American Pickers store, Antique Archeology. I had seen the blog before, about the general stores. We were able to visit Mr. Wilson Fly, at his Fly General Store on Sunday. He closes the store at 5:00 pm sharp! We arrived right at 5, and he was so gracious…. he spent about a half an hour talking with us, showing us the store. What a wonderfully unique experience!!! We loved it! I even got to purchase one of Mr. Fly’s world famous bird houses!!! Next time we get back to Nashville, we will visit the rest of the general stores on the list, for sure!!!
Wilson is the man!! So happy that y’all took the tour! His bird houses are beautiful and he really knows how to build a tasty bologna sammie.
Check out Facebook page for Theta General Store. Same area
So, here I am at work on a perfect Southern California morning, when BAMM!! Because of this absolutely lovely article, I get hit with this overwhelming sense of longing for the road. My wife and I ride our Harley’s throughout the western states, and have yet been back there to see the things in the South. This article is such a great motivator; it has awakened my yearning for the simple traveling, and to visit and support some real people. People not afraid of tradition and hard work.
Oh my, what a feeling! Thanks so much. (Now back to work..ughhhh)
This makes us SO HAPPY! You’d have the best time. Please let us know when you go! Or better yet, go do the tour and then report to the Nashville shop with some bologna sandwich and tells us how it was. We’re waiting for y’all!
Thanks for the tour…
Yes we will be there at our next bike ride!!!
Great photos and great story lines. Keep this up….it is the heart of America and we all need to be reminded of this slice of life in this troubling time.
How much is the tour and how long is it? Are certain dates that you go?
Hi! It’s not an official tour. We created it ourselves one day for fun to show off the amazing backroad general stores! No cost. No certain dates. It’s available whenever you are!
Thanks so much. The pictures are great. My Granny owned a store just like these, outside of Blacksburg, VA. She sold hot dogs with her “secret recipe” chili. On football game weekends, I stood on a stool and wrapped orders in wax paper. Customers left with sacks of hotdogs, chips and colas from the old chest coolers. Great memories!
We recently visited Nashville, TN and one of the things I was most excited about was taking this drive. We really enjoyed the scenery on the drive and LOVED all of the old stores. Everyone was very friendly that we met. We ate lunch at our first stop at Pucketts. It was so good, so go hungry to enjoy all of the great homemade food. Talked with Jewel at Fox’s grocery store and she had the biggest roll of bologna I have ever seen! Wilson Fly is a hoot and recently was featured in a local magazine. He autographed the magazine for us and let me take some photos of him. When I asked him if I could take some photos, he told me he would be offended if I didn’t ask him. Thanks Mike for mapping out this awesome road trip. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves for the afternoon. We traveled back to downtown Nashville on the Natchez Parkway. That was a beautiful drive as well! If you are ever in this area, you need to take this road trip, you will not be disappointed.
Glad you got that chance to go out there and explore it!
Will take this drive in the future! Right now I am looking for authentic old general stores within an hour or so from Knoxville….in East Tennessee. Hoping for suggestions! Family member visiting who would enjoy it! Thanks.
Great road trip for a leisurely drive. Would like a .pdf version to print and take along.
that’s a great idea! we’ll see what we can do!
l live near there, and have been to all of those stores many times! (Note: Fox Grocery Store in Bending Chestnut has 100% gas, no ethanol. Great for motorcycles!)
Well written tour Fly`s sounds like a pickers dream.
I enjoyed this tour in 2019 whist visiting the area during a Moto Rally in Lebanon. Had so much fun that I did it twice over a five day period. I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit again if I/we were in that part of the world. Most excellent and thanks so much!
Thanks Mike. I lived in Franklin for 6 years and have been to a couple of these general stores before.
I plan to take my grandchildren on this tour when I visit my son in Nashville next month and visit old friends.