November 19, 2007 - Hickory Daily Record - Store offers trip back in time - Newton grocery hasn't changed much since 1944 opening
NEWTON - A step through the door of Bowman’s Grocery in Newton is like a step back in time.
The store on North Ashe Avenue has not changed much since it opened in 1944. The hardwood floor remains in the store that stocks items ranging from canned food to handmade crafts. A radio on a top shelf behind the register allows customers to enjoy music or talk shows.
“Very little has changed about the store except the prices,” Ann Bowman said.
Bowman took over the store from her parents, Dorothy and Fred, around 1984.
“A lot of people who come in say most of these stores are gone now,” Bowman said. “It’s the old general store.”
A small round table sits in the back portion of the store, just right for a game of checkers.
“I have regulars that like to come in and sit and do what they used to call politicking,” Bowman said.
Bobby Hendricks has been one of those regulars at the “little red store,” as it is called, for about 34 years.
Hendricks said he got into the habit of dropping by for a visit when he worked for Newton-Conover Schools. He and his co-workers took breaks at the store.
“And I still come by and see her,” he says, referring to Bowman.
The store has historically been a spot for youngsters to gather and get a soda or a treat after school.
“Most parents feel like it’s a safe place because we don’t sell tobacco or alcohol. And it’s in the neighborhood, so they can ride their bikes here,” Bowman said.
She makes all the crafts sold at the store, mostly holiday items like wreaths and painted sleds now that Christmas is near. But one of her creations can never be sold.
One wall in the back of the store is painted with a scene showing a man sitting on a bench holding a bottle of cola. A dog looks eagerly at the man, but a cat, being a cat, sits on a wall, licking its paw, ignoring the two.
Bowman said the painting started as a simple family scene, but turned into a piece of local history after a woman came into the store and remarked on how much the man looked like her father, Ben Hewitt of Newton. She asked Bowman if she could make the painting into one of her father and provided Bowman with pictures of Hewitt. Bowman knew Hewitt from the neighborhood, and was happy to immortalize him.
The bottle of soda also adds a touch of history to the painting. Bowman put the drink in the painting because of a traveling game people used to play with bottles of that brand of soda.
“When they were finished drinking it, they would turn it upside down to see where it was bottled,” Bowman said.
In a time when travel was less common, those bottles likely created dreams of locations only to be imagined, much like the nostalgic feelings Bowman’s Grocery creates in its patrons.
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