Our story begins with the purchase of nine barrels of apples. It is the proverbial “cloud with silver lining” story.
Our founder and his wife, Willie Cecil (“W.C.”) Hill and Sarah McCraw Hill were married in 1922 and lived on their family farm in Cana, VA. In 1924, W.C. bought nine barrels of apples intending to sale them in Winston-Salem, NC. He set out to Winston with the hopes to raise enough money to buy fertilize for their farm. When he arrived in Winston the next day, the apples were to quote W.C., “ever one black, just scalded ruined.” After unsuccessfully trying for two days to sell them, W.C. returned home and told Sarah he “might go down to Mr. Dowell’s he runs a big store in Mt. Airy, and might sell’em to him. He might give me some’im.” Mr. Dowell bought the apples at a considerable loss to W.C., but Mr. Dowell told him about a couple of acres of land in the Cana area that he would like to sell. So, while suffering a terrible loss on the apples, he ended up purchasing the land that would support them the rest of their lives.
W.C. Hill Tells Our Story:
On July 1, 1927, Hill’s General Store on U.S. Highway 52 in Cana opened its doors for business. In 1946, WC and Sarah moved from the family farm, giving the farmhouse to their eldest son, Osler (“W.O.”). Joining them in the move to the back of the little store was their five other children: Opal, Olin, Ozia, Oscar, and Orene. Later, they moved into a cabin behind the business, and in 1949, they built their permanent residence next door.
When the store first opened, W.C. said, “there was not a rock on the road out front.” After a rain, teams of horses were hard pressed to even travel the dirt path. The next year, state workers started dumping loads of rock on the road and convicts were used to beat the rock into the dirt. At this time, the state informed W.C. that the store would have to be moved back from the road ten feet. The original building was then moved to its present location. Since that time, the building has seen many changes and facelifts. In 1947, the original building was vacated and a new one built. This building was remodeled and expanded in 1960. 1982 brought another remodeling, and 1984 brought yet another expansion and remodeling. The final remodeling took place in 1988.
W.C. began his business as a general mercantile that carried everything from groceries and hardware to fertilizer, stock feed, and shoes. He managed the business until 1953, when he turned the day-to-day operations over to his oldest son, W.O. Hill. W.O.’s youngest brother, Oscar, joined the family business in 1961.
W.O. and Oscar continued to operate the store with few changes until 1981. At this time, the decision was made to split the businesses. W.O. was to take the fertilizer and feed business with his son, Willie under the name W.O. Hill & Son. Oscar would keep the groceries and hardware business and would be joined by his son, Todd, keeping the name Hill’s General Store. Together, they added a full service shoe department.
The shoe department began to grow in sales and reputation. Finally, in 1988, the tipping point came. We had to decide: shoes or groceries. Both were no longer an option. That spring, the last of the groceries were sold, the final remodeling was done, and out of the dust of the construction emerged what is now called Hill’s Shoes. While we may have changed a great deal from the general mercantile, shoes were always a part of what we did. We now offer a full line of shoes for the entire family.
Officially, we keep the name Hill’s General Store in honor of the hard work and dedication of our founder, W.C. Hill.