After a long fight by county commissioners, the Cherokee County Historical Society and residents to save the historic building, a South Georgia developer started demolition of the old family-owned general store Wednesday.
By the afternoon, little remained of the store but memories.
Developer Jim Rollins of the Summit Group in Macon is working with Flash Foods to build a convenience store on the site, once the rubble is cleared from the property on Highway 20.
Rollins said Thursday it might be as long as two years before the gas station is completed, and nothing more will be done at the site until the bricks being given to the Cherokee Historical Society are removed.
Although they were defeated in the fight to protect the store, which was built in 1935, the Cherokee Historical Society plans to use the bricks from the building as a fundraiser in hopes of keeping other landmarks from meeting a similar fate as the Buffington community staple.
“We knew it was coming, but it’s not easy to look at those photographs,” said Stefanie Joyner, executive director for the historical society. “I haven’t been down Highway 20 yet to see it, and I’m dreading it. It’s a setback for the Cherokee Historical Society, but hopefully, this will raise some awareness of the landmarks we do have and a need to preserve them.”
The nonprofit is pre-selling the bricks that made up Bell’s Store, with plans to use them for a new courtyard at the historical society’s Rock Barn in Canton and put the money raised toward helping to save other relics of old Cherokee in the future.
Joyner said about 50 people have committed to buying bricks, which range in price from $25 to $100. She said the historical society would not be able to retrieve the bricks until all the demolition equipment is offsite.
Right now, the bricks are in a pile by the side of the road.
“We are waiting for the historical society to clean the bricks and stack them and get them moved,” Rollins said. “We aren’t in any hurry, and we would like them to have time to do their project.”
Rollins said the process of building a Flash Foods is often lengthy, and said they will have to go back before the county with their plans for approval before construction can begin.
While some residents admit defeat, others are encouraging people in Cherokee to boycott the Flash Foods when it does come.
A Facebook page called “Boycott Flash Foods in Canton” was created by Canton City Council member Bill Grant.
“Flash Foods and Jim Rollins demolished the historic Bell’s Store in Buffington, former home of Cherokee Market. It will be replaced by a gas station/truck stop that sells cheap cigarettes, beer and processed food,” Grant said in a post on the page. “Farm fresh produce and historical assets will be replaced with video gambling machines. Join us in pledging to never patronize this business that has no regard for our community, heritage or quality of life.”
So far, 162 members have joined the social media page, pledging to shun the business once it is built.