A rambling, wonderful place

By on October 13, 2019

(The Lower Currituck Volunteer Fire Department)

A former employee remembers The Cotton Gin

The Cotton Gin up in Grandy burned to the ground yesterday. 

My daughter sent me a text reading, “Hey the Cotton Gin is on fire.”

“What? Which one?” I asked.

“Our Cotton Gin,” she answered.

It was our Cotton Gin, the place we would go every December to buy a Christmas ornament to exchange on the first day of Chanukah. A way for us to honor our respective religious views, since I am Jewish and my daughter is strong in her Christian beliefs. 

It was the store where I worked for six years; a store filled with remarkable people who became friends. It was a rambling, wonderful place, filled with nooks and crannies and always in some forgotten corner, something unexpected — some widget, gadget, kitchen utensil, book, article of clothing — was always turning up.

The Cotton Gin was a reflection of the Wright family and how they wanted to run their store. It had never been some super slick, trendy store bending in the direction of the ever-changing vision of a corporate boardroom.  It is, and always has been, a family-run business. 

As an employee, the Wrights made it clear what their, and your, priorities were. If your child was sick, you were supposed to be home with your child. If your parents needed you for some reason, you went to see them. There was never any doubt that family obligations trumped everything for the Wright family.

I drove up to the fire yesterday. Part of it was the reporter in me wanting to tell the story. But the larger part was the need to witness what was happening.

The smoke was an ugly black smear on the horizon, easily seen from the Wright Memorial Bridge. I kept thinking, “That can’t be it. It cannot be this visible eleven miles away.”

But it was. And the closer I got, the darker and the angrier the smoke became.

Currituck Sheriff’s Department personnel and North Carolina Highway Patrol had vehicles rerouted around from the fire, which snarled traffic for hours. But it had to be that way. 

I pulled into the Jarvisburg Post Office parking lot and stood next to a few people who had worked there during my time at the store. Some of them were still employees. Their eyes were a little puffy, a little red.

We talked for a little bit about what it meant, that it might be the end of an era. But we spoke more about what it would mean for Tommy and Candy Wright, the couple who had poured their hearts and souls into the store

“It just makes you want to cry,” I said.

“We already have been,” one of them answered.

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