A.F. Carraway Store in Bassfield was established in 1919. Today, it is one of the few old country stores still in operation in Mississippi.
Visiting the store is like stepping back in time to when these establishments were the centers of thriving agriculture-based communities. In its early years, A.F. Carraway sold food, clothing, appliances, fabric and patterns, whatever a farming household might need to keep it going through the year. Fertilizer was available in a separate warehouse, and the store had a platform where cotton was purchased from farmers.
On the day of my visit, Colleen Powell and her husband, Ray, were working the cash register, while a big electric fan was trying its best to keep the summer heat and humidity at bay. Colleen’s father, Neil Burns, began working at the store after he graduated from high school. He worked there for 61 years, and eventually purchased the store from the Carraway family. When he passed away, approximately four years ago, his four children inherited it. Now, they take turns operating it.
During his lifetime, Neil strived to see that A.F. Carraway provided for the needs of a community. In addition to keeping the store well stocked with items he felt his customers might need, he took lists from some of them and gathered up their groceries and other merchandise. He even delivered groceries to those who weren’t able to come to town. Neil was honored by the town of Bassfield on May 21, 2011, for his years of dedicated service to the community.
Henry Brown, who worked on the Carraway farm, also helped out at the store. Today, Henry’s son, Wayne, works at the store several days a week.
“This is the original building,” Colleen says of the white clapboard-style structure, which has the original hardwood floors and very high ceiling. “We have fixed the roof from time to time and made repairs here and there, but this is the store that was built by the A.F. Carraway family almost 100 years ago.
“Where the store was once central to the community, today it is very much appreciated by the community,” she adds. “We have many loyal customers, most of them older folks. We still sell groceries and hardware, but we also offer T-shirts, Round House overalls and jeans, and Lodge cast iron skillets and pizza pans. You can get your monograming done here by my sisters, Lynn Miller and Bronwyn Dyess. My brother, Sean Burns, also helps us run the store.”
Colleen says many of their customers grew up around A.F. Carraway and have fond memories of it. Some of the older customers want to purchase the old-time hoop cheese and bacon. The store boasts an original butcher block for cutting cheese. An original cash register is displayed. Colleen says the store gets local folks as well as visitors from across the nation and around the world. Some are traveling the nearby Longleaf Trace recreational trail.
“We have had people from other states stop by and visitors from as far away as Australia and Japan,” she says.
The Longleaf Trace is a running, biking, hiking and equestrian trail that is 41 miles long and extends from Hattiesburg to Sumrall, Bassfield, Carson and Prentiss. For more information, visit longleaftrace.org.
The Burns siblings intend to keep A.F. Carraway Store open and in operation for the foreseeable future. They say they are taking things “day to day.” Should they one day decide to close the old store, Colleen says they might consider turning it into a museum. A.F. Carraway has lots of history and plenty of interesting stories to share with future generations of Mississippians and other visitors.
The store is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The siblings and Wayne rotate their shifts. For more information, visit the Facebook page or call the store at (601) 943-5551.