Originally created 02/23/98

Store retains country air



On winter mornings, Glenn Brown starts his day by stuffing wood into a vintage iron stove in the corner of his feed and seed store in Evans.

Nearby, the floor is littered with peanut hulls, and a yawning, yellow cat looks nonchalantly toward cluttered shelves, perhaps hoping for a mouse.

Soon, dust-streaked front doors open for business.

It is a time-worn ritual for Mr. Brown and his brother Donnie, who have operated Brown Feed & Seed for more than two decades.

The business originated in the clapboard building that now houses the Side Track Bar & Grill. When Martinez developed, the brothers moved father into rural Columbia County -- two miles up Washington Road in Evans.

"Here's our first dollar," Glenn said, laughing and pointing toward a cobweb-encrusted frame dated 5-12-77. "That's a while ago. Evans isn't the country anymore."

Today, Glenn and Donnie peddle their feeds, fertilizers, firewood and fenceposts from a growing area where grocery stores, car dealerships and a 12-screen cinema have edged out pastures and country homes.

"We've been in here a long, long time," Glenn said. "But the way things are changing out here, you'd think we've been here forever."

For longtime Columbia County folks, the feed store is a speck of consistency on an otherwise changing landscape. And the customers are loyal.

"Most of the people around here who fool with livestock, we've always done business with them," Glenn said. "Now we have a lot more people who just have houses out here, getting things for the yard or garden."

Jack Jones, who's shopped at Brown's more than 15 years, is a regular.

"I need a sack of potatoes," he said.

"Red or white?" Glenn responds.

"Oh, the little red ones, I guess."

"Comin' right up."

The store is also known for its collection. It's not exactly a museum, but it's close.

"It's stuff," Glenn said with a laugh. "Mostly things the old-timers bring in here and give us."

Scattered among shelves and ceiling beams are an assortment of deer antlers, a stuffed beaver, old farm implements, advertising tins, fenceposts, animal traps -- you name it. Even World War I cavalry bags.

"People bring it in here, mainly the old-timers," he said. "You see that mule plow hanging up there? A guy brought that in last week. He didn't want to sell it. He just wanted it here. Now when he comes in, he can look up and see it and talk about it."

John Lindsay, a Virginian transplanted to McCormick, S.C., often stops at Brown's during intermittent forays into Augusta. It reminds him of his childhood visits to the local country feed store.

"We been coming in here a long time," he said. "Getting corn to feed all the geese and ducks."

Despite the growth that is transforming Evans into a district of fast traffic, commercial development and pricey stores, the Browns plan to stay put.

The community of Evans, Glenn says, deserves a hint of rural America to remind newcomers to Columbia County of the area's tranquil past. He nods to a customer inquiring about onions for a winter garden.

"I'll let you pick out the best ones," he says with a laugh. "That way, if they don't grow, it'll be all your fault."