Sweet Memories: Art Foster serves up old-fashioned burgers and a tasty trip to the past at his general store in Pickton
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Art Foster's store, built some six decades ago, offers a lot more than just food. The bright red building houses a cornucopia of memories from the past, from the soda pop in a bottle to the old signs, peanuts in a barrel and a considerable collection of classic penny candies.
-Staff photo by Ricky Russell

April 1, 2004 -- A visit to Foster's General Store, located on the corner of Highway 11 and Route 269 south in Pickton, will have folks feeling like they have stepped back in time as they enjoy the experience of purchasing penny candies, soda pop from a bottle and toasted bun burgers hot off the grill-- just like the good old days.

"The store has a lot of character, and a lot of history," said new store owner Art Foster, who has put a little life back into what was once the old Kimmons General Store. "But it's still the store on the corner with a bit more history, a fresh coat of paint and a few new faces."

According to Foster, the store is more than 60 years old and has gone through several proprietors since the Kimmons' 35-year ownership.

"Surprisingly, I think the older folks have really taken a likin' to me," said Foster, who wasn't sure how well he would be accepted. "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."

Foster, fairly new to the area, explained that he just happened upon the old store on his way to Winnsboro when he stopped in to grab a burger and a soda for the road. The business proposition came up in conversation, and he just couldn't resist the opportunity because "the store just had that hometown feel of the old corner store everyone grew up with."

"Everyone remembers the store on the corner -- the place where folks gathered around to drink coffee and discuss the news of the day," said Foster, who was raised on the East Coast. "The store where everyone knew your name, the local meeting place-- a pillar in the community."

Walking through the door of Foster's General Store is almost like stepping back into the past, with its wooden shelves, tin cabinet doors, old Sinclair and Coca-Cola signs and barrel of peanuts in the middle of the floor. And good conversation isn't the only pastime you'll have while waiting for your favorite hot sandwich or breakfast. Games such as tic-tac-toe, brain-bender puzzles and bottle-cap checkerboards adorn the tables. Or you might opt to just kick back and read the local happenings, as Foster carries a variety of area newspapers.

But what really sets Foster's apart from all the rest is his delicious assortment of American classic penny candies -- Charleston Chews, Mary Janes, Wax Lips, Necco Wafers, Astro Pops, Pop Rocks, McGraw and Kit taffy, Razzels, Jaw Busters, Boston Baked Beans, candy lipstick, Lucky Light candy cigarettes, licorice and much, much more.

"You can't hardly find this stuff anymore," laughed Foster, who said he has special memories of his own penny candy days. "You can tell that I definitely have a sweet tooth."

Penny candy will cost you more than a penny these days, but Foster has managed to keep the price at a minimum.

"I want the kids to feel like they are getting something for their money," explained Foster, who even hunted down the little brown, half-pound paper sacks. "I want them to be able to walk out with a sackfull the way we did when we were kids."

Foster said he doesn't know if he is having more fun watching the kids' reactions to candies they are seeing for the first time or watching the parents' reactions to finding the candies they grew up on.

"I probably have the largest selection of candy in the area," he said.

Besides classic penny candies, Foster's General Store specializes in old-fashioned hamburgers and sandwiches such as hot ham and cheese, grilled cheese, patty melts, BLT's, breaded steak sandwiches, onion rings and french fries. There are also full plate breakfasts, as well as breakfast sandwiches for people on the go.

The store also carries Tyler honey, sunset candles from Sulphur Springs and homemade fried pies from Winnsboro.

"I really like having the store, and I'm really proud of the work that we've done to the place," said Foster. "It just has that classic general store, old country store look with a nostalgic feel to it. I saw it as a good opportunity for myself and I'm having a lot of fun with it. I guess you could say, 'I'm like a kid in a candy store.'"

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