The day is sunny, but winter winds outside the are preparing their attack on even the smallest spots of uncovered skin. Inside it is comfortably warm, but 15 years ago—about 150 years after the main portion of the store was finished—shoppers may have gotten only slight relief from the cold.
When Gloria Hilderbran and her partner, Diane Reese, purchased the store in the heart of downtown Powder Springs in 1995, it had no heating or plumbing—accommodations they have since installed in the front of the building. A central brick fireplace in a dilapidated state had to be removed.
The back part of the building, used now to store antiques, still has no heating system. Perhaps it wouldn't do much good because of the lack of insulation and the gaping spaces between boards.
"My little nephew said, 'I can see the outside from the inside,' " Hilderbran, 72, said.
The rear portion can be traced to the 1830s, making it the oldest building in Powder Springs. Hilderbran said it was once used as stables when Powder Springs was a resort community that attracted people with the reputed healing powers of its seven springs.
One symbol of its age is a weathered, rusty sign hanging outside that says the store can be reached by calling a single-digit phone number: 4.
The front part of the store was added by 1850, evidenced by that year's census, Hilderbran said.
Around 1879, it became Butner & Son General Store. C.M. and J.B. McTyre bought the store in 1935 and operated it until 1968, the year C.M. McTyre died.
"The older people that live in the community, they will come in and have all these stories" about the McTyre store, Hilderbran said. She doesn't have any of those memories herself because she grew up in nearby Austell, not Powder Springs.
The National Register of Historic Places lists the building as the Butner-McTyre General Store. It's the only Powder Springs building on the register, Hilderbran said.
Obtaining that honor for the building was a painstaking three-year process for the owners, she said. The register added the store in 2006.
"Most of the country stores that have survived are brick or cement; there's only something like 12 percent of the country stores that are actually wooden," Hilderbran said. "So that was one thing that we had going for us."
Before her antique shop started in the building in 1995, the site housed another antique store for 22 years, Hilderbran said.
For sale in the venerable building are items that have withstood the test of time: a weathervane and an old scale, decades-old furniture and signs, an old Coca-Cola dispenser, a yarn winder—all items that Hilderbran said carry a more personable feel than anything crafted in the 21st century.
"I love the old stuff. We live with it at home," she said. "My house is all furniture like this (in the store). This kind of stuff, it gives you such a warm feeling."
She added: "It feels more alive. Does that make sense? That furniture could be more alive."
When customers approach the checkout counter—the floor creaking with every step—Hilderbran politely asks them if they wouldn't mind revealing their ZIP code. The average customer, she said, travels about 45 minutes to the store.
"I had a daughter-in-law—I no longer have that daughter-in-law—but she says, 'This gives me creeps to think of the old people.' And a lot of people feel that way," Hilderbran said. "But 90 percent of the people who come in say that you can just feel a strength and a warmth and a comfort that you don't get anywhere else."