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Origin of Papa's General Store
Hey Y’all! My name is Craig Smith “Papa,” owner of Papa’s General Store! I have always considered Conway to be my home because my wife Vicki and I raised our family here. In April of 1973, I opened my first store, Shoe City. This store sparked a passion in my heart for business which lead me to open several businesses over the years such as City Athletics, Village Sportswear, and Athletic Addict.
I have always dreamed of owning a general store like the ones in the late 1800’s and early 1900s. General stores were places to get anything you needed from toys, to medicine. In the early 1900s, The Jerry Cox Co. Downtown was Conway’s “general store.” Being very nostalgic, I felt the need to create a store that the citizens of Conway could once again identify, Papa’s General Store!
I made the decision to open the store when my father died in early 2013. He housed my daughter, Kimberly’s doll collection that she inherited from my mother. To sell his house, I had to find a place for over 1,000 cataloged dolls and other items from her collection. Coincidentally, a spot on Main Street just became vacant so I jumped at the chance to rent it. My plan was to display the dolls here so they could be photographed and marketed to other doll collectors, however, this was not what happened…
Over time, I was compelled to carry shoes again because I had over 27 years in the shoe business. Once Rainbow Sandals approved me as an authorized retailer, my store began growing rapidly. Papa’s General Store has moved all over Main Street; from 412, to 318, and now 301 Main Street. We are now closer to the center of town and carrying more products than ever. I am so blessed to have had my dream of a general store come true. When people think about Papa’s General Store, they remember our warm welcome and the variety of useful products we offer! Walking into Papa’s General store is like a Blast from the past, with a hint of the modern southern lifestyle!
The following article appeared in the My Horry News Dec. 14, 2014
Step back in time at Papa’s General Store
By Ettie Newlands, [email protected]
Dec 30, 2014
Craig “Papa” Smith, owner of Papa’s General Store in Downtown Conway, enjoys playing with his merchandise as much as his customers enjoy buying it.
Photo by Ettie Newlands
Tinker toys, Mary Jane candies and French’s spices in metal tins are no longer blasts from the past. They, and myriad other toys, snacks and collectibles, and even specialty shoes, are available at Papa’s General Store in downtown Conway.
“Papa” is Conway native Craig Smith, “Papa” to his granddaughter.
And his general store, at 318 Main St., is a reservoir of nostalgia, plus new items including Sanuk, Orthaheel and Jack Rogers shoes, Burt’s Bees products, hilarious greeting cards, Wolverine shirts and vests, and even local art and books.
The store is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Tilley Hat comes with a two-year loss guarantee,” Smith said, explaining that “If you buy one and lose it within two years, you get another one free.
“The kids come in for the toys, the mamas come in looking for the shoes and the grandparents come in looking at the old antiques,” Smith said. “So, when people come in, there’s something of interest for all members of the family.”
Smith said while younger people don’t have any memory of something like Mary Jane candies, once they taste them, they like them.
The wrapped, but unpackaged candies are sold by the pound or by the piece.
Back in the early 1970s, Smith owned Shoe City in downtown Conway, and in the late ‘80s, that became City Athletics. In May 2000, he retired.
But when his mother passed away in 1998, leaving thousands of dolls to Smith’s daughter, he had a problem. Couple that with his father passing away, leaving what Smith called “a room that was like a museum in his house.”
The problem was solved when he rented the store that had previously housed Suzanne’s Antiques, where he thought he would just sell off what his parents had collected over the years.
“People came in thinking the store was still Suzanne’s Antiques, and asking for antique items, and I told them I didn’t have it, but I’d get it,” Smith said.
Long story short, Papa’s General Store expanded, and moved to his current, larger location in August last year.
Art by Conway native Lon Calhoun and books by local authors including Rod Gragg, Ted L. Gragg, Rocky L. Gregory, Jean B. Burden and Susan Hoffer McMillian are also available.
“We want to be a place where local artists and authors can have their work available,” Smith, who has five employees, said.
Bottled soda, candles, novelty license plates, Orca coolers – “Those are made in America, not China,” said Tina Hill, who helps Smith in the store - Brach’s Jelly Nougats and even an old Edison record player are displayed in the store.
A 99 cent bin includes everything from old matchboxes to souvenirs of South Carolina, drinking glasses to baseball cards.
“You never know what you’ll find there,” Smith said.
Papa’s General Store carries 987 reproductions of different metal signs, including the one that cautions, “Stage riders take note – spit with the wind, not against it.”
Fisher Price toys, jack in the boxes, cardboard kaleidoscopes and sock monkeys head the list of old timey toys that are available in the unique store.
Wooly Willys, metal Slinkys, and bike accessories such as horns, bells and even streamers for the handlebars are stocked.
“What’s been the biggest challenge is finding the old things, so sometimes you find the closest thing to it,” Smith said.