David’s Hash and Steve’s Special may not be menu items most people are familiar with, but in the community of Como-Pickton where “regulars” keep Foster’s General Store in business – they are quite common. “Everybody around here has a special named after them,” laughed Art Foster, owner and operator of the country café located on the corner of Highway 11 and Route 269 south of Pickton. “We have lots of great customers that come in and it makes them feel special to have something named after them.”
According to Foster, when regular customers come in, he knows WHAT they like, and exactly HOW they like it.
“I do lots of specialty type stuff,” he said. “They’ll come in and say, ‘Just whip me up something good.’ It’s like a big, experimental kitchen back here. I can get really creative.”
One of his creations that has become a favorite among customers is a breakfast dish that combines hash browns, crumbled sausage, peppers, onions and spices, topped with cheese and two eggs, over easy.
“Then when you break the yoke, it all runs down into it,” Foster explained.
There are lots of variations to the recipe, according to Foster. He adds bacon, ham – depending on who the customer is and the ingredients they like.
There’s a lot of good-hearted conversation and teasing going on, as well.
“I don’t want no sissy toast,” said one old-timer by the name of Bill ordering his usual – chicken strips with gravy and two pieces of wheat toast.
“‘Sissy toast’ means lightly toasted,” said Foster translating the slang. “He likes his toast dark.”
Cooking has always been something he’s enjoyed, Foster said.
“I’ve been in kitchens for 15 or 20 years now. I even cooked in the military,” said Foster, who served six years in the U.S. Air Force. “I love it. I just think it’s a lot of fun.”
Foster bought the country store and café five years ago, saying it had a lot of character, as well as, a lot of history. Known as the old Kimmons’ General Store, it dates back some 65 years.
Foster came to the area from the East Coast, and said he just happened upon the establishment when he “stopped in to grab a burger and soda for the road.” The business proposition came up in conversation and before he knew it, he was the proprietor of an old country store.
“The store just had that hometown feel of the old corner store everyone grew up with,” he said in an interview. “Surprisingly, I think the older folks have really taken a likin’ to me. People in the community like the fact that someone has come in and put some time, effort and money into the place—a little tender love and care.”
Recently, Foster has begun phasing out grocery items and plans to focus primarily on the restaurant.
“More people are coming in to eat. The restaurant has worked out real well for us,” he said. “It’s really what has kept me in business for the past five years.”
Foster said he will continue to keep a few loaves of bread on the shelves and a couple of gallons of milk in the fridge, but for the most part he’ll be doing what he does best – cooking and visiting with the customers.
“I try to go out and sit with people, visit a little bit, hang out with the kids that come in sometimes – play games, cards, stuff like that. It keeps them out of trouble,” said Foster, admitting he would like for that to happen more often. “They don’t come in a lot, but I’m hoping maybe that will change.”
One thing Foster has added to the business that might be of interest to the younger generation is wireless network, making the facility a WI-FI hot spot for the rural community.
“I thought we needed to keep up with the times – maybe it might draw some people in,” he explained. “They come in grab a soda, do whatever they need to do. I think it’s helped a few people out.”
Julie Jenkis agrees. “Art has adopted this community and the community has adopted him,” said Jenkins, a local who helps out with the business. “He’s a true entrepreneur, always trying to do something that will benefit the community. His mind is always on a project, something he can do to help out. Right now he’s working on getting a basketball goal at the Community Center.”
“I’ve gotten a lot more involved with the school and the churches,” Foster said. “I definitely feel a part of the community. The community has been incredible to me. They really support me, and I try to support them.”
Over the next several months, the News-Telegram will feature local restaurants and the people who run them.
For more Off the Menu features, visit www.myssnews.com
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