February 2018
Homeplace & Community

Pope's Country Store

A Friendly Stoppin’ Place in Marengo County

 

A visit to Pope’s means ice cream and treats. The store was originally owned by the great-grandparents of these children, (from left) Anderson Gates, Natalie Gates, Maddox Gates, William Gates (baby), Matthew Gates, Lindsey Fuller, Beth Fuller, Sarah Grace Gates and John Luke Gates.

Small, country stores are falling by the wayside, unable to compete with big stores and the internet. For many rural areas, the demise of their convenience store means having to drive miles for basic needs such as food and fuel. One community store in rural Marengo County, however, continues to thrive, connecting several communities and providing travelers a friendly place to stop.

LeAnn Pope Moore and Marcus Pope grew up within view of this little country store. For years, Ms. Eleanor Cooper ran the store, known as Cooper’s Country Store. Each morning, Cooper made a pot of coffee and saved one cup just for Mac Pope, LeAnn and Marcus’s father. The siblings visited the store frequently and had fond memories of their times there.

When the business was put up for sale in February 2017, LeAnn and her husband Bayne, and Pope purchased it, changing the name to Pope’s Country Store. People in this area know the Pope and Moore families as small-business owners, farmers, loggers, foresters and merchants. For all the family members, this store has always been a regular stopping place. Now, it would have family ties.

Pope’s Country Store is located in Vineland, an unincorporated area of Marengo County. For years, it has proudly served as a one-stop destination for locals from the surrounding communities of Arlington, Surginer, Magnolia, Moore’s Valley, Shiloh, Pine Hill and Dixons Mills. In fact, Pope’s faithful customer base comes from three different counties: Marengo, Wilcox and Clarke.

Located at the intersection of Highways 10 and 25, Pope’s Country Store welcomes many other travelers passing through this area. Northwest Alabama residents, headed to Alabama’s beaches, often stop in for fuel, cold drinks, snacks and bathroom breaks. In addition, Highway 25 is a popular thoroughfare for University of Alabama students, traveling to and from Tuscaloosa. Many make this a regular stopping point, as there is only one other fuel stop between Vineland and Greensboro.

The owners of Pope’s Country Store are (from left) Bayne and LeAnn Moore and Marcus Pope.

 

Employees affectionately tell stories of UA students who have underestimated their need for gas. Heading to Gulf Shores, one group of girls saw their empty light flashing. They managed to get just a few feet from the turnoff to the store. Employees helped push the car to the tanks. Needless to say, the youngsters were so grateful, on their return trip, they stopped by again to thank the staff.

Pope’s Country Store is a community hub, stocking staples that save folks a trip to town, meaning driving 13 miles to Thomasville. Pope’s also serves delicious, Southern-style meals. They start early with a brisk breakfast business, then follow with lunch and a short-order supper. Everyone in the area praises their cooks, who proudly say they cook the old-fashioned way. In season, Pope’s offers crawfish and fresh Alabama Gulf shrimp. They also smoke their own barbecue pork and brisket. They prepare locally grown vegetables and produce, as well as made-from-scratch desserts. In addition, Pope’s caters parties and special events.

Pope’s stocks traditional road fare, popular with truckers and loggers: black-rind cheese, crackers, Beanie Weenies, potted meat, sardines and Vienna sausages. Additional amenities are clean restrooms and comfortable seating areas.

"Our unique location lends itself to a faithful customer base," LeAnn laughed, "but we often get a lot of other folks in here. We see truck drivers, logging crews, farmers, cattlemen, engineers, teenagers, road crews, old-timers, teachers, preachers, storytellers and comedians. They all walk through our door!"

Pope’s Country Store is located at the intersection of Highways 10 and 25. Locals often refer to the store as “The Intersection.”

 

The three owners rotate the times they oversee the store, because all three work full-time jobs elsewhere. LeAnn is the librarian at Thomasville Middle School, Bayne works for the Alabama Forestry Commission and Pope owns South Alabama Wood Products.

LeAnn believes the store offers something truly unique and quite special, something she describes as "endearment and entertainment."

"I love these people," she said. "The store provides a place to visit and to serve! The stories we hear are priceless!"

LeAnn told about her first week at the store. It seems a young lady had lost her car charger, so she sold hers to the lady. In another story, she related how a local farmer had left a load of watermelons in front of the store. The trailer was there for over a week … and no one stole any melons.

 

Mary Garner is the crew chief. She orders, stocks and waits on customers in the front. Mary’s good-natured personality and ready smile are what customers always expect when they come into Pope’s.

"You have to come in for the entertainment!" she laughed. "Why, just last week, one of our regulars pulled up with a rooster riding shot-gun in his car! Now, where else could you see that?"

Pope’s also provides convenience as an overnight parking area for trucks, trailers, tractors and hay equipment. On weekends, many truck drivers leave their rigs, fueled and ready to pull out on Monday. It is not unusual to drive by and see large farm tractors or trucks, pulling stock trailers, refueling at the tanks. Pope’s is also a popular stop for farmers, pulling feed trailers to and from Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Faunsdale.

Pope’s provides employment for community members.

"We are able to provide full-time jobs to three of the hardest-working women in the area!" said LeAnn.

Mary Garner is the crew chief. Her helpers are Danielle Rembert and Tasha Square. The group uses a team effort to plan menus that LeAnn posts on Facebook.

LeAnn pointed out that the store offers ease for her family.

"Having the store has also been very convenient for all of us," she laughed. "I’ve almost quit cooking at my own home!"

Amber Cooper Fuller often shops the store. Her grandparents once owned it, so she has many fond memories of being there. Fuller believes small, community convenience stores will make a comeback.

"For my generation, we have everything shipped to our homes," Fuller said. "Having this store nearby means I can run over and get extra things I need. I also see my neighbors. Pope’s really helps out a lot of people in this area."

This small country store provides food, fuel and friendly clerks, but it also offers much more. While connecting multigenerations, it also serves as a nostalgic link to the past. Most important, however, Pope’s Country Store is just a friendly place to stop and rest awhile.

 

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..