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LAUREL FORK — After 65 years in the general store business, Delmon Nester deserves the right “to piddle,” as he calls it.
That might roughly translate to “anything that needs doing” around Nester’s General Store, that staple of Laurel Fork life where he and his family recently celebrated six-and-a-half decades in business.
In a retail landscape that has largely shifted to chain stores, Nester’s store remains an independent holdout and a locally owned success story.
Nester still goes every day to the business that he helped start when he was 20 years old.
He and his father, Emmett, went into business together.
“My father and I, on Sept. 17, 1946, started a little store where you see these cars parked at,” Delmon said, indicating a graveled area a bit to the west of the current location. “At the time, between Meadows of Dan and Hillsville, there were 12 stores and now there are two.”
The old store, called E.M. Nester and Son, used to be a lot closer to the road. It sold 19¢-a-gallon gasoline and made its own bulk fertilizer for the farms.
Even in 1946, a few customers still drove their horses and wagons to the store to buy their bib overalls, winter underwear, shoes, hardware and dry goods, Nester recalled.
The family moved into the new building in 1985. The business became a corporation in 1994.
Delmon serves as president of the board of directors of Nesters Store Inc. and wife Rogene, son David and daughter Debra act as officers and participate in the business management.
“So, I’ve seen a lot of change,” Delmon Nester said.
Nester had been turned down for military service and had been running a saw mill in the 1940s.
“My doctor said I needed some lighter work and that’s when we decided we’d try the store,” Nester said. “Little did he know how much harder it was going to be.”
Lugging the 200-pound bags of fertilizer and feed was no easy task, he explained, and keeping the store going required a lot more hours of work.
The Nester family still has to work hard to compete with the big box stores that have arisen in communities not too far away.
“Don’t fish, don’t do nothing,” Nester said. “Just come to the store every day.”
What he does there runs the gamut from stocking shelves to straightening up to running the register.
The key to attracting business involves offering what the customers want and need.
Nester’s still offers hardware, as well as plumbing supplies. Son David runs the garage.
The small engine shop has recently been running its best ever, he added.
“I think that’s one thing that’s helped us all through the years — we’ve had a lot of good loyal customers,” he said.
They seem to appreciate the store’s efforts to keep low prices and do honest business.
“Also, I think keeping a good inventory, having most of what everybody needs,” has been a key to success, Nester said.
The store probably sees an average of 200 customers come through its doors a day, the Nesters estimated. What happens with the business in the future will be up to the family.
“At my age, I don’t think I’ll have many more years to contribute to it,” Delmon Nester said. “At my age, I think it will be up to the kids.”
• Nester’s Store opens Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is (276) 398-2521.