The Community Store was established in 1918 by Amasa (Mace) Fulcher. Under Fulcher’s management, the general store soon became a focal point of community activity on the north side of Cockle Creek (Silver Lake Harbor). The original structure was a square building of less than 900 square feet. Although close to the sandy lane that would eventually be paved and designated North Carolina Highway 12, the main entrance to the store faced the harbor. A porch invited customers to stop and chat for a few minutes, or to sit for hours. Men congregated there to swap tales, tell jokes, carve small wooden birds, and talk about fishing and the weather.
The accompanying dock extended up to the store and connected with the front porch. A small barbershop operated by Gillis Riddick, Mace’s step-son-in-law, was erected alongside the dock, a short distance from the porch. A section of the dock was customarily lifted up to allow passage along a sandy footpath that led around the shore of the harbor. The removable section was lowered whenever a shipment arrived at the dock and boxes and barrels of new goods were hauled into the store. A fish house on the end of the dock served the growing number of commercial fishermen.
Mace Fulcher died in 1946. Shortly thereafter his widow, Maude Williams Fulcher, sold the Community Store to Mace’s sister’s husband, Isaac Freeman O’Neal (known by all as “Little Ike”), and Little Ike’s son-in-law, Jesse Woolard Garrish. Sometime in the early 1950s the new owners had the original building demolished and a new, larger store built in its place. Several years later the Community Store was enlarged. Although the store still catered to occasional customers arriving from the footpath close to the harbor, the paving of the road on the other side of the store and the increased use of automobiles on the island led to exclusive access to the store from the paved road. And that led to a problem.
The Community Store was shaped like the letter “L,” with the main section perpendicular to the road, and the shorter warehouse section parallel with, and close to, the paved road. A fence divided the store’s parking lot from neighboring businesses. The warehouse blocked the view of the porch and main door, and access to the parking area was only wide enough for one vehicle.
In 1978 Philip and Julie Howard purchased the Community Store. They realized something needed to be done to provide more convenient access to the store. The warehouse needed to be moved.
Ocracoke has a long tradition of elevating and moving houses and businesses. If a house or store were to be moved to another location in the nineteenth century, it was jacked up, then lowered onto rollers made from trees, and pulled to its new locations by horses. By 1978 that was no longer an option. Only one professional house mover served Ocracoke. Sixty-one-year-old Manteo native, Willie Rogers, was contacted and agreed to help with the move.
This is how the store looked before the October 1978 move, with the warehouse parallel with the paved road.
To prepare for the move, Philip crawled into the attic and began disconnecting the two sections of the store. After several days, the two parts were separated.
New framing members and braces were added to stabilize what were now two separate structures.
Willie Rogers, an old-time do-it-yourself entrepreneur, arrived with his equipment, including an old “half-truck” with a cab and bare frame rails, extra axles with wheels, jacks, and various lengths of well-used, not-entirely-straight steel I-beams. Everyone was amazed to realize his truck engine did not have any valve covers. Every so often Willie would climb up on the fender and pour engine oil onto the valves. That created an oily mess that never seemed to bother Willie.
In two days of much hard work, backing up & pulling forward, and tight maneuvering, the warehouse was repositioned behind the main section of the store, close to the harbor. From there it was just a matter of permanently attaching the warehouse to the main building, and nailing new siding where the warehouse had originally been attached.
Visibility and access to the store was now assured. The store’s next owners, David and Sherrill Senseney, purchased the adjoining properties, including Jack Willis’ store on the dock (now the Working Watermen’s exhibit) and the original generator plant (now Kitty Hawk Kites), and combined the parking areas in a unified square.
Today the Community Square is owned by the non-profit organization, Ocracoke Foundation (https://www.ocracokefoundation.org/).
The Community Store building serves as the island Thrift Store (https://www.facebook.com/VillageThrift/), and the former warehouse has been repurposed as the Stockroom eatery (https://www.stockroomstreetfood.com/) with a small porch overlooking Silver Lake.
For more information about the history of the Community Store, see https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-community-store/ and https://www.ocracokenavigator.com/community-store/