Saluda, NC is an historic Victorian mountain village at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Main Street is full of many distinctive modern shops, art and craft galleries, and delicious restaurants. But there’s one spot that’s nearly as old as the town itself. Walk into Saluda’s century-old grocery store and you get a whiff of oil-stained heart pine floors stirring up memories of times gone by.
“We have, of course, my store, which is the oldest grocery store in North Carolina,” said Judy Ward, owner of Thompson’s Store and Ward’s Grill.
According to town records, George L. Thompson began his mercantile business in 1890. Since then, the family-owned business has been a staple of the town, occupying its current location on Main Street since 1940. The attached Ward’s Grill has been slinging hearty breakfasts and classic lunches since the 1950s. In recent years, the old-timey grocery store expanded its famous full-service meat market to include a delicious deli section. Customers can also find wine, beer, cheese, and fresh produce.
Oddly enough, Thompson’s isn’t the only historic store in town.
“And then we have M.A. Pace’s, and they’re more of an older general store,” said Judy. M.A. Pace’s traces its history back to 1899. Today, the general store carries staples like bread and milk, but also other essential items for mountain life. Browse the store, and you’ll find everything from local jams to rakes and paint.
While these historic stores make up the backbone of Saluda, other restaurants and destination spots help fill out the experience.
“The restaurants here are fantastic. A lot of people love to come to the Purple Onion,” said Judy. “And then, of course, we have the Orchard Inn. It was built for the railroad people. And that’s why Saluda’s here—it’s because of the railroad.”
At the turn of the 20th century, Saluda was famous for sitting at the top of the Norfolk Southern Railway’s Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline standard gauge railroad line in the country. The town’s train depot was built in 1903, and today houses a museum dedicated to the area.
“The passenger train stopped in 1983 and they were going to tear the depot down,” said Judy. “The city actually bought the depot, and it’s being preserved to make a museum. We’ve been very lucky [with] the people who have stepped up and supported this.”
Learn more about Saluda, NC
Off of Main Street, residents and visitors alike enjoy all the outdoor adventures the area has to offer. Businesses like Green River Adventures offer guided tours of the area’s many features, which include hiking, road biking, swimming, fishing, camping, zip-lining, and whitewater adventures. Saluda is also within driving distance of national wonders like the Green River Gorge, Dupont State Recreational Forest, and Pisgah National Forest.
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Read more about Saluda, or search for property listings in the area, from our Beverly-Hanks Saluda community page.