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Old landmark will give way to roundabout
Greg Wallis, left, and Linda Perdue look through photos and memorabilia from the old Wallis store. - photo by Autumn McBride

At the junction of Jot Em Down, Hopewell and A.C. Smith roads sits an old red building, partly covered in overgrowth.

While it may not look like much today, for nearly a century the building served as what some have called "the mall of north Forsyth."

Longtime residents still refer to it as the old Wallis store.

Next week, the building which hasn't been a store since the early 1970s, will be torn down to make room for a county road project.

Tim Allen, the county's assistant director of engineering, said the crossing, which is currently a four-way stop, will be converted into Forsyth's first roundabout on a major thoroughfare.

"We're tearing [the building] down at the request of the homeowner," Allen said. "Half of it's on the existing right of way."

Owner Linda Perdue said she and her husband, James, did ask that the structure be torn down.

"We're just not able to fix it back it up. It'd cost a lot of money," Perdue said. "It's in such bad shape now, someone might get hurt. So, it's best for it to go down."

While members of the Wallis family understand, the pending demolition of the building is somewhat difficult to consider.

Greg Wallis, whose great-grandfather, grandfather and uncle all owned and operated the store, said it served as a hub for north Forsyth.

"It was the place to be on a Saturday," Wallis recalled. "It was the greatest thing to sit around and listen to the old men tell stories and roll Prince Albert cigarettes."

Opened circa 1905 by Wallis' late great-grandfather, George Emory Wallis, the store provided "everything you needed."

"They sold clothes, overalls, home goods, dishes," he said. "Really, everything you needed except fresh produce."

Lunell Robbs, Wallis' aunt and daughter of one of the store's owners, Fay Wallis, recalled the business' bartering and credit system.

"All the farmers would trade with Daddy," Robbs said. "They'd charge everything they needed until their cotton crop came in, and then in later years, it was chickens.

"They'd bring in fresh eggs, home-churned butter and live chickens to swap for their groceries."

Robbs said her favorite memory of the store is candy.

"There was three penny-candy jars up on the counter. One was chocolate drops, there was one that was like a gummy bear and another little sugar candy. They were all just a penny a piece."

Greg Wallis, the resident historian of the family, has a large photo album full of store memorabilia.

Included is a photo of its first owners, taken in about 1896.

The album also contains several photos of the store and surrounding buildings, which for many years included a corn mill and black smith shop.

Also among the items is an advertisement from a 1909 edition of the Forsyth County News.

Some of the merchandise on sale included men's overalls for 82 cents, "Sunday and work shirts" for 43 cents, and "ladies' drop skirts" for 90 cents.

Besides selling food and clothing, the store also served as a post office and had a gas pump.

Wallis said one of his first jobs was pumping gas.

"It was 29 cents a gallon," he recalled.

He recalled how a gentleman once needed gas on a Sunday in order to get to Atlanta, where a family member was having a baby.

Wallis said his grandfather never conducted business on Sundays, but agreed to let the man fill up and come back Monday to pay.

"He wouldn't exchange any money on a Sunday," said Wallis, noting that the man returned early Monday morning to settle up.

Robbs recalled farmers arriving via horse and buggy even into the 1950s.

"They'd come around back and hitch their horses back there," she said.

Like Wallis, she said the store was a popular place.

"A lot of talk went on there," she said. "There was a big coal heater and a long bench that people would sit on and talk. And when it was warm outside, people would come and play horseshoes out back.

"There's a lot of memories in there. I hate to see it come down, but it's in bad shape."