The history behind the oldest grocery store in the state of North Carolina
History has a way of repeating itself. For almost as long as there’s been a Saluda, there’s been a Thompson running a store on its Main Street. Records indicate that George L. Thompson first became involved in the mercantile business as early as 1890, and Lola Thompson Ward grew up working in her daddy’s business in the early 1900s. Around 1940, Lola and her husband, Roy, along with sons Jack and Charlie, relocated the Thompson’s Store business to its current location at 24 Main Street. Then in the late 1950s, Roy and eldest son Jack convinced Lola to add the grill next door.
Thompson’s Store was “information central” for generations. Folks called the rotary phone to find out everything from the weight of new babies to the funeral arrangements of old timers. Lola was the very heart of it all, stationed on her stool up front by the cash register, even well into her 90s. She passed away at the age of 103; her son Charlie died only a year later, and with him the era of having a Thompson proprietor on Main Street seemed to have died as well. But a tradition as old as a town itself is mighty hard to give up.
That’s why Charlie’s cousin, Clark Thompson, and Charlie’s widow, Judy Ward, partnered to keep Thompson’s Store and Ward’s Grill open for business. The store and grill have seen numerous renovations and expansions in recent years. A complete refurbishment of the second floor created Lola’s Celebration Venue, a multi-room venue with indoor and outdoor spaces available for rent for weddings, receptions, parties, reunions, showers and other special events.