It may be out of the way but the Onward Store is becoming a frequent stop for hunters and travelers in the Mississippi Delta. The country store and restaurant is celebrating its centennial and based on appearances the store has aged well.
Established in 1913 it turned 100-years-old in November, and you could almost say the place looks brand new. Well, that is because a lot of it is after Mollie Van Devender bought it last year.
"I love to nurture and to fluff and felt like that I gave this the luster that it needed," Van Devender said.
Previous to owning it she would stop by Onward Store from time-to-time on the way to the family deer camp. While the store's charm is undeniable it is the preservation of history that inspired Van Devender to take it over.
"It's called the greatest hunt on American soil, because Teddy Roosevelt didn't kill the bear and thus the birth of the 'teddy bear'," Van Devender said.
Like mascots, iconic Teddy bear's decorate the store's shop. Meanwhile, the walls are adorned with pictures of President Roosevelt and legenderay hunter Holt Collier which tell the story of their epic 1902 hunt.
Appropriately, Van Devender said hunters were some of the first to discover the revitalized country store.
"It's a great recluse for hunters during this time of year," Van Devender said. "In the middle of nowhere on Highway 61, but locals have dearly appreciated the plate lunches."
Locals have also appreciated the work. Another inspiration for Van Devender's vision was creating jobs.
Onward supports 10 full-time employees, in addition to part-time staff. As these workers are able to make a living, for Van Devender making money with Onward Store is not at the top of her priority list.
"Am I making a profit," Van Devender asked herself. "Probably not, and the little bit of profit that I do make, or possibly will make this year I want to give back to the community."
For instance, Van Devender said some of those profits will find its way to the Cary Christian Center.
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