Sometimes you are lucky to stumble upon a Florida gem simply by venturing away from the highways and taking the backroads. But other times, it takes a small nugget of knowledge to direct you to a slice of Florida history you otherwise would not have seen.
Such is the case with the Richloam General Store, tucked away in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Hernando County. I heard about this little treasure through a friend on social media who said it was a place I needed to visit.
Where is the Richloam General Store?
The store sits south of State Road 50 on Richloam Clay Sink Road, about three miles east of U.S. 301. A small sign on this narrow winding road indicates you are approaching the Historic Richloam General Store.
Who would have known that a short distance from a main east-west highway through Florida sits a store that pays homage to the community’s past? The front of the store is quaint and inviting. Rocking chairs on the porch seem to beckon you to sit a while, listen to the sounds of the forest, and enjoy life the way it used to be.
It sounds a little cliché but stepping inside is like taking a step back in time. From the moment you walk through the screen doors, you feel as though you are being transported back to the 1920s and 30s.
“Welcome to Richloam General Store. Is this your first time here?”
Daisy Brinson, mother of property owner Eric Burkes, stands behind the original cash register and greets each customer as though they are family. She is quick to offer up a brief history of the store – and more if you ask questions. Daisy is proud of this little store and its history, not only to Richloam but also to her family.
Richloam General Store’s History
The store was built in 1920 by Sid Brinson to serve as the general store and post office for the Richloam community. A train depot, ice house, barn, and turpentine still also sat on the property. In January 1928, the original store burned to the ground, amid speculation the fire was intentionally set to cover up a robbery, which would have been a federal crime because the store housed the post office.
In about a month’s time, the store was rebuilt – this time out of metal – and remained open until 1936.
After serving as a family residence until the mid-1950s, the store sat vacant for nearly 20 years, until John Brinson (Daisy’s husband) purchased the property from his uncle Sid’s estate in 1973.
Daisy reminisces about life on the property, recounting how her sons were raised here. One of her fondest memories, she admits, is of the boys using the vacant store as their clubhouse.
Open for Business
Fast forward to 2016 when Daisy and John’s son Eric decides to renovate the store, using as much of the original building material as possible. It is returned it to the way it was more than 80 years ago and reopened as a general store.
The original post office boxes sit just inside the door. A hand painted sign hangs from the ceiling and copies of “Wanted” posters are taped to the exterior. The letter slot is just below the postmaster’s window.
Sid Brinson’s name can be seen on some of the original sheets of metal used to rebuild the store in the late 20s. Each pallet that arrived had his name stamped on the top sheets of the bundle.
Other evidence of the original character of the building and the property can be seen elsewhere within the store. Bricks from the old turpentine still now serve as the fireplace.
And Daisy is happy to point out the 1918 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine she still uses to make aprons, sock monkeys and Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.
Of course, you can’t visit a general store without looking at the many items on the shelves themselves. The Richloam General Store stays true to the time period and offers goods you would have seen in the 20s and 30s, items you won’t necessarily see in today’s grocery stores.
Jams and jellies, sauces, local honey, salt-cured meat, and jars of candy all offer up a taste of life in simpler times.
Richloam General Store, the oldest historical building still standing in the Richloam area, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. The folks who stop by are the locals, hunters during hunting season, and the curious. Fundraising efforts are now underway to restore or rebuild the other buildings on the property to provide more opportunities for visitors to learn about early life in the Richloam community.
Florida’s backroads don’t get any better than this.
Note: The Richloam General Store is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.