With big-box stores on every corner and sometimes in between, we’ve gotten used to the sight of convenience, to being able to pop down to the store whenever we need something. The advent of Internet shopping and delivery has made even that non-essential, and we can go months without having to step foot into an actual store. But once upon a time…
When Lawrence Edward Bradley founded Bradley’s Country Store in 1927, convenience stores and corner groceries were a long way away from being a token part of the landscape. In fact, before the store was actually made a physical location, Bradley did something that has since come back around as a “modern” convenience: he made home deliveries of goods to his customers.
“My great-grandfather had established a commodity trade, consisting of primarily dry staple goods such as rice, coffee, tobacco, and sugar. He procured these goods by making treks into Tallahassee with his horse and wagon and bringing them back for families who lived and worked in the surrounding rural areas and who did not have the means to travel far,” explains Bradley’s great-granddaughter, Nikki Winchester, who also serves as the company’s Executive Assistant.
“This enterprise eventually grew to a point that it was necessary to construct a building to house the merchandise. In those days, the store offered virtually everything anyone could need, from horse collars to coffins, from sodas to sausage! Much of the trade was done by bartering or through ‘farm accounts,’ where customers would run tabs through the growing season and pay those tabs once their crops were harvested. Many times, if there was a bad harvest, these tabs could run up to a year or more. Often in the worst of times, they were actually forgiven.”
Nearly a hundred years later, the store has been passed down through the generations and is now run by Janet Bradley Parker, granddaughter to Edward. Still, in the midst of so much modernity around it, Bradley’s Country Store is every bit as nostalgic as one would hope. “Bradley’s still stands in the same building it did when it was founded in 1927 and has been recognized on the National Register of Historic Places since April of 1984,” Nikki says.
“The store still carries the same rustic simplicity that began back in 1927, with the same wood and creaky floors. Everything moves a little slower out here, so expect to mosey through the store to shop through our old-fashioned candies, toys, and knickknacks before arriving at the back meat counter to grab a sausage dog and some meats to go. There’s so much to look at that you’ll eventually find your way to the front counter with more than you intended to buy such as candles in old milk bottles, hand towels with old Southern sayings and a wide variety of jams, jellies, pickled items and many more thoughtfully and carefully curated items chosen by the owner herself, a majority of which are American made—something which we pride ourselves on.”
It is the atmosphere, the Southern hospitality, and—of course—the products that keep Bradley’s such a destination. “We are famous for our homemade sausage,” Nikki notes. “We have used the same recipe—a secret recipe created by my great-great grandmother, Mary Bradley—with no alterations since its creation back in the early 1900s. To this day, it contains no preservatives or additives and comes in three forms: ground, fresh link, and smoked link. Our smoked sausage is cured in our smokehouse using the smoke from oak and green hickory wood.”
As delicious as their sausage is, there’s more to their claim to fame than just meat. “We are also well-known for our stone ground grits, and we still grind on site in the Old Mill House located to the right of the store using the same stone Burr Grist Mill (originally purchased in the early 1930s) and my grandfather’s Ford Tractor,” Nikki says. “Some smaller items that are popular among our customers include the Jalapeno Honey Mustard, German Sauerkraut, Mayhaw Jelly, and Pickled Okra.”
No trip to Bradley’s would be complete without spending time on their front porch or at one of their many picnic tables located underneath the large oak trees overlooking Bradley Pond. “It truly feels as if you are escaping the hustle and bustle of the city life and coming out to a quiet area surrounded by beautiful oak trees and nature,” Nikki says. “It’s as if time slows down and you can just enjoy the peace and quiet for a minute.”
Upcoming this November is their Annual Fun Day, held the Saturday before Thanksgiving—November 20, 2021, from 10am to 4pm. “The event started back in 1970 when my grandfather, Mr. Frank, had finished building his brand-new packing house and wanted to show it off to the community. Over the years, people began coming out to get a tour of the packing house and try a sample of our sausage,” Nikki says. “Vendors began showing up to sell their homemade crafts, and soon after, there would be live entertainment and activities for the whole family. This event has come to be our favorite time of year, when thousands of families come out to buy their meats and handcrafted unique holiday gifts from one of our 100+ extremely talented vendors. We have live entertainment featuring The Allie Cats Band and the Mountain Dew Cloggers, family fun activities such as pony rides, face painting, petting zoos and bounce houses, and you even get a chance to see how our Old-Fashioned Cane Syrup was made back in the day and take a bottle or two home! Last year would have been the 50th anniversary for this event, but we’ll take ‘almost 50th’ for this year!”