Monday, December 8, 2014

Ridgeway, SC, good things in small packages

Ridgeway's main street
How big must a town be to be worth visiting? Not very if Ridgeway, population 330, is any example.

We headed there for lunch at Laura's Tea Room and the Thomas Store Deli and were soon charmed by the tiny town.

The one-block downtown, three-block residential town sits smack in the middle of what once was the Catawba people's hunting grounds. Much of the surrounding land is still used for hunting only now it is in the hands of private hunting clubs.  The population of the whole county is a mere 26,500.

Small town, small police station.
Look quickly as you enter town or you will miss the world's smallest police station, now a help-yourself visitor's center. Carrabelle, FL, also claims it has the smallest, a phone booth. Ridgeway's is just large enough for wooden desk, a rotary telephone, a small file cabinet and a small wood stove, so it was more of a true station than a place for police to make phone calls.  The new police station one street over doubles the space.

Miss Laura's is in the Thomas Building.
Laura's is owned by Carol Allen and named for Miss Laura, the last member of the  Thomas family to run the mercantile that once filled the circa 1911 building.

Samples of Grama's expertise.
The deli and shop are downstairs, the tea room upstairs and the baking is done by Grama, Carol's 93-year-old mother. Many thought Carol crazy when she opened here in 2008, but the enterprise is still going strong and garnering rave reviews.

The library ladder of the old mercantile store is still used.
Downstairs is a fun shop, the deli and dining area.

A little "Downton Abbey" tea?

Upstairs is the dedicated tea room which, if you didn't wear your own chapeau, comes with a large selection of loaners.

The Good girls in their "loaners".
 We saw several mother-daughter-granddaughter combos that were having a lovely dress-up time.

Mrs. O'Brien's Quiche
The tea and food are good, too., and reasonably priced. Mrs O'Brien's Quiche (broccoli and cheddar), served with a salad of mixed greens, fruit and veggies, is $8.95. Upstairs teas are by reservation; afternoon tea is $18.95, the High Tea $26.95. Menus for these change but you will always find sweets and savories. If they have the ginger peach black tea, don't miss it.

We took a quick, post-lunch ramble down Palmer Street, ducking into the cute accessories shop next door. Alas, not time for retail therapy.

We could have spent even more time at the antiques shop across the street and especially Ruff & Company Hardware.

The old wooden hardware store is adjacent to its new - 1901 - replacement.
The old store, circa 1840, is next to the "new" one, built in 1901.  It, too, has a library ladder, still in use, but its shelves are chock-a-block full. The wooden floors have that walked-on spring and the range of merchandise spans as many years as the store itself.

Judy covets this cabinet.

We met owner Dan Ruff behind the cash register. He's the sixth generation to punch its keys and has as many stories to tell as there are items in his store. We yearned to stand around and hear them but he was busy and we had more places to see. However, is would have been a crime to miss his unique, mule shoe filing system.
Dan Ruff and his mule shoe filing system.

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