It sits on 36, right where the road bends before it continues on westward. Men sitting on the porch playing checkers or just talking about their day and people exiting the double front doors rubbing their very full stomachs are sure signs Graves Grocery is more than just a place to grab a gallon of milk on the way home.
Until a few years ago, the old, white building with the wide, inviting front porch stood vacant. The porch sagged in places and the paint was peeling. The old storefront seemed to have outlived its usefulness. But Pam Graves had kept her eye on it for most of her adult life. She had ideas for that tired, old building.
In the summer of 2013, she opened Graves Grocery.
Giving and Sharing
Before she ever opened for business, Pam Graves, owner of Graves Grocery, envisioned her store would be a place to serve her community in Lacey’s Spring. However, this adorable little storefront has become a location for community members to take the lead in gathering together, building relationships and serving others.
On the surface, Graves Grocery is a country store and good, home-cooking restaurant, but it is also a site for community events and ministries. Customers have begun to use Graves Grocery as a place to share their excess with the people living right around them.
Pam says she has been blown away by the impulse of people to give.
Twice a month, Pam offers her parking lot to a Huntsville church. There they distribute food to families in need. Although Pam is not directly involved in organizing this ministry, customers have seen the activity surrounding the store and often leave food to share with these people, either brought from home or purchased at the grocery.
As a thank you, this church leaves Pam food offerings, which she uses as an opportunity to bless the community once again by selling it at a discount. This allows struggling families an opportunity to more easily provide while still maintaining the dignity found in purchasing their own food.
Community members have also proactively used Graves Grocery as a place to share any excess produce from their home gardens. Pam places the produce in a basket and lets customers know they are welcome to take some as they come through the store. For free.
Pam tells the story of one man who, after seeing the role of service Graves Grocery has played in the community and Pam’s knowledge of community needs, entrusted her with some cash to share with someone who really needed it. Pam held on to that money for several weeks, praying over who should receive it.
One day, a man from a familiar family came in with the news that they were having some legal and financial issues with their home after his father-in-law passed away. With that cash, she was able to give him what he needed.
Fundraising Community Style
The community’s giving spirit impacts people far beyond Lacey’s Spring as they have participated in raising funds for mission trips to Africa. Pam says these fundraising events— concerts and classes hosted at the store—are intentionally designed to bring the community closer together while also giving them an opportunity to contribute to missionaries’ expenses. Local musicians from a variety of fun musical genres such as bluegrass, blues, jazz, and southern gospel have donated their talents to the concerts while local teens volunteer their time organizing games and serving food.
Local women have hosted classes in pottery painting, quilting and ornament making, giving the attendees an opportunity to learn something new while spending time together and building relationships.
Pam has relished the opportunity to give the community an avenue to be a part of something larger than themselves and to be personally connected to service happening on the other side of the world.
Of course, not everything at the store is focused on providing financial or physical needs. One of the most significant things the store is doing is providing space and opportunities to build relationships.
Each month, a group of mothers meets at the store. They belong to a local chapter of a larger program called Mom Heart, in which women gather together to encourage each other in Christian motherhood. The Graves Grocery attendees have represented up to eight different churches in the community, bringing together women from varying denominations and congregations.
Pam has also seen relationships blossom as a result of fundraising events. One particularly strong friendship between a 60-year-old woman and a 30-year-old woman began in a quilting class and has developed while sharing time drinking coffee in the store.
Pam even gleefully confesses to occasionally taking a little more time than necessary to cook a meal for someone she can see desperately needs to spend a little time in community with the others. The customers in the store unknowingly help her tremendously in this endeavor as they beckon others to sit down, rest and shoot the breeze for a little while. Shouts of, “You don’t need to go anywhere! C’mere, sit down!” ring out in the store each morning as Pam prepares breakfast.
Each person in the community has something they can share—a skill, money, time, a hobby—even a simple smile or kind word. There is no lack of resources or desire to share with those in the community. Graves Grocery serves a pivotal role as a place around which the community can gather and serve each other.
“There has never been one day that I thought, ‘I just don’t want to go,’ ” reflects Pam. “There have been days when something outside of here is really weighing on me, but I hit those steps, and I am completely covered in peace and joy.”
So if you’re ever down 36, passing through Lacey’s Spring, and see the beautifully restored, white building with men on the porch playing checkers, stop in for a little while. Have some coffee, eat some pie and spend a little time in community. You won’t be sorry.