The South Side of Town

For some first-time visitors to Highlands (and even some people who’ve lived on the Plateau for decades), the Highlands Shopping Experience extends for a couple of blocks along Main Street. 

This is a bit puzzling, since serious shoppers know that the avenues leading in and out of town are laced with businesses offering unique treasures and services, each deserving of a careful browse. Since they’re not part of a chain, each offers a unique, deeply personal shopping experience. 

Take 106 South (The Dillard Road). At first glance it’s a two-lane road connecting Highlands with Georgia. But make that trip with a discerning eye and you’ll be astonished by the possibilities that spring up like partridgeberry along the roadside.

Dusty Rhodes Superette is a Highlands institution. They’ve been purveyors of fine food and exceptional service for more than 65 years. This butcher shop and deli offers everything from homemade jellies and baked goods to salads and sandwiches. Their wine selection is a small, hand selected collection of customer favorites. Check out their weekend specials and their complete, ready to cook meals. They’re open Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.; and 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on Saturday until May. Call (828) 526-2762.

The Summer House offers complete home furnishing services from single pieces to entire homes, including porch and patio, dining and bedding, and living room décor. Take advantage of their long-distance program and have that special piece shipped anywhere in the country. They’re open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Call (828) 526-5577 or email [email protected].

 If you’re looking for a little local flair to add to your décor, check out Peak Experience. They specialize in American handcrafts, local pottery and estate and handcrafted jewelry. Their inventory is constantly changing, so there’s always something new to discover. Hours vary by season, so please call (828) 526-0229.

ACP Home Interiors is a one-stop shop for the home. Featuring upholstery, slip covers, case goods, gifts, jewelry, lighting, rugs…the list goes on and on. New shipments arrive every month. Come by to check out their new upholstery lines and talk to Kerri about custom bedding. They’re open by appointment until May when their hours shift to Noon to 5:00 P.M.on Mondays, and 10:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Tuesday through Saturday. Call (828) 526-4500 or email at [email protected].

Cake Bar, located at 2254 Dillard Road, is an easy getaway and a dazzling showcase for the baked goods of owner Kristi Henderson and her family. The centerpiece of this entire operation is the addictive flourless chocolate cake known as “Chocolate Heaven,” but you’ll find an eye-popping selection of cakes, pies, scones, muffins, things with names like Cranberry Orange Cheesecake, Grilled Banana Bread with Bourbon Sauce, and Praline Ice Cream. You can come in for a slice or a piece and pair it with coffee, tea and espresso, or a something from the curated selection of wines – red, white, bubbly and dessert – by the glass and the bottle.  Or you can take your selection home and become a legend in your home or your community. For more information, call (828) 421-2042, but this is one of those places that you should really visit.

Full House Gallery, opening this month, will sell furniture on consignment, original art, and inspirational home goods, along with kitchen and home design by Susan Elizabeth Interiors. (828) 526-6609. Come in at 66 Highlands Plaza or email  [email protected]

The Blue Elephant Consignment Studio has an amazing selection of furniture, rugs and accessories for your home. Their inventory is constantly changing so there’s always something new to discover. From old hickory pieces to modern, light and airy styles, they have something for everyone. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday, from  10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Call (828) 526-9948 and check them out on Facebook and Instagram. 

 Getting ready to remodel? Talk to Phillip Potts or Yance Thompson at Highlands Doors and Windows. Their showroom displays all kinds of different doors and windows, plus all sorts of hardware and specialty products, such as phantom screens. Let them help you pick out the perfect accents for your mountain escape. They’re open Monday through Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.. Call (828) 526-3719 or email [email protected]

At Highlands Decorating Center, “Service is our most important product.” Whether you’re looking for tile or hardwood flooring or a special color of paint, their skilled installers and paint specialists are here to exceed your expectations. They adapt to the individual needs of each customer, let them help you turn your house into a dream home. They’re open Monday through Friday from 7:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M., and Saturday from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. Call (828) 526-3571.

Recently renovated with fresh paint and new décor, Bryson’s Food Store still offers the freshest meat, seafood and produce available. Peruse their superior wine department and unmatched selection of craft and domestic beers. The deli is the place to go for daily lunch specials and premade dinners. They’re open every day from 7:30 A.M. until 6:30 P.M., and until 7:30 P.M. in season. Call (828) 526-3775 or email [email protected].

  Crown Heritage Flowers is the go-to place for all things fresh and floral. Formerly Cosper’s Flowers, the new owner, Danielle Hartsfield Chambers, is breathing new life into this Highlands mainstay. The shop now offers a wider selection of cut flowers, potted plants and arrangements for any occasion with a focus on local and sustainable sources. With their competitive prices, you won’t find a better bang for your buck anywhere else. Crown Heritage Flowers is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 A.M. until 5:30 P.M. and Saturday from noon until 4:00. Call (828) 526-8671.


by Ashley Stewart


The American Woody:The first generation of depot hacks boasted open bodies constructed of wagon-style solid planking. But by the mid-1910s, closed station wagon bodies became more common and lighter construction was required. The rib-and-panel style that is familiar today made its first appearance on these vehicles and allowed for the first partially enclosed wooden station wagons with side curtains, two or more rows of seats, and side doors. These new wagons could still be considered depot hacks, but were now called Suburbans, Combinations and Country Clubs. (Versions of these names still appear today.) The lower halves of these wagonette bodies resembled the earlier versions and were now combined with a flat roof. These designs found favor with non-commercial customers, and an increasing number of firms began building them. Major manufacturers such as Ford started offering woodies through dealerships, although independent body builders performed the actual construction. The Martin Truck and Body Corp. in York, Pennsylvania, made so many bodies for Ford, Dodge and others during the 1910s and 1920s that they billed themselves as "The Largest Commercial Car Builder in the World." The golden age of the custom wood body maker ended during the Depression, as many of the small independent firms went out of business. Some reorganized and diversified, like the Kentucky Wagon Manufacturing Company, which stopped making wood Ford Model T and Model A bodies (and its own line of automobiles as the Dixie Motor Car Company) and started manufacturing truck trailers. The company is still in business today as Kentucky Trailer. The major automobile manufacturers acquired many others at fire-sale prices during this time. The fortunes of Martin Truck and Body, who called themselves "The Largest Commercial Car Builder in the World," changed dramatically during the Depression. After merging with failed carmaker Parry in 1919, Martin Truck and Body was acquired by Chevrolet in 1930 and became its first in-house commercial truck body division. Ford, with its vast timber operations near Lake Superior, was gaining experience in woody manufacturing. That experience would be put into practice in 1936 when a plant opened at Iron Mountain that built complete wood wagon bodies that were then shipped to Ford plants around the country for final assembly. While Ford was the only manufacturer building woodies from the ground up, there were still coachbuilt versions available based on GM, Chrysler, Packard, Willys, Hupmobile, Graham, Hudson, Studebaker and even American Bantam chassis. The trend toward luxury continued through the 1930s, although woody amenities lagged far behind those in production automobiles. Pontiac, for instance, did not offer full glazing until 1939. As the country began to recover economically, woodies were increasingly perceived as upscale vehicles and sales rose accordingly. Ford easily maintained its dominance, selling almost 10,000 redesigned Standard and DeLuxe station wagons in 1940 alone. Chrysler introduced its first truly car-quality woody, the Town & Country, in March of the following year. It boasted an all-steel roof and a white ash and mahogany body by Pekin Wood Products of Helena, Arkansas. With Willys, Buick, Pontiac and Plymouth all getting serious about passenger comfort in their woodies, things were about to heat up when the manufacturers were told to cease production of passenger cars and contribute to the war effort. A trickle of cars continued for a brief time, but all domestic automobile production had ended by March of 1942. Ford continued to produce a small number of Ford and Mercury woody sedans and ambulances used during the war. We reach Crystal Cove and its landmark Shake Shack and pull in to switch drivers. Remembering the earlier starting difficulty, we leave the Ford idling while photographer Joseph Puhy shoots some images. Little do we know, the ethanol-laced modern gas blend is busy vaporizing in the fuel line, a common Ford flathead V-8 problem. It happens on the uphill leaving the Shake Shack, the woodie chugging slower and slower, until it can’t chug anymore. Now we’re stranded beside the Coast Highway, with Audis and Acuras zipping past at speed. Bad scene. With no luck re-firing the engine, I resort to bump-starting it backward downhill. This works, and the ’34 has just enough power to get us turned around and find safe haven in a nearby park. But the woodie’s day is over. “I think this has cured me of wanting an old car!” Dean says, laughing. Oddly enough, another “Surf City” lyric has portended our current situation: “And if my woodie breaks down on me somewhere on the surf route/Surf City, here we come/I’ll strap my board to my back and hitch a ride in my wetsuit.” With the photo and video teams close behind, our rescue isn’t quite that dramatic, and we all safely return to the museum in modern cars, leaving the generous McPherson and his beautiful ’34 awaiting Hagerty Plus Roadside Service. The last great year of the woody was, by some accounts, 1949. Handcrafting complicated and maintenance-intensive wood frames and panels was becoming very difficult to justify in the red-hot, new-car market. The epochal Chrysler Town & Country switched to Dinoc vinyl (still available in aftermarket "wallpaper woody" kits today) with ornamental ash framing, and the 1949 Ford used all-steel construction with experimental plywood-like panels that underwent a dramatically high rate of failure. General Motors abandoned wood framing after 1948, and from 1948 through 1951, Packard produced station wagons with window framing and ornamental wood door trim by Briggs Manufacturing. The few coachbuilders that survived the Depression and World War II were again in jeopardy during the 1950s. Despite efforts to make the transition to more modern products such as hearses and other steel bodies, the wood-body manufacturers, steeped in old-world hand craftsmanship, were almost all gone by the end of the decade. Car design and manufacture, as well as the tastes of the car-buying public, were undergoing radical changes and the woody, redolent of 1930s and 1940s country clubs, fell from favor. The Chrysler Town & Country was discontinued in 1951, and while Fords continued to sell well, they now increasingly used vinyl and paint instead of real wood. The 1953 Buick wagons were the last real woodies from any major American manufacturer. Various wallpaper woodies or "vinylies" are still offered by Detroit to this day, but the age of the real woody ended in 1953. Fiberglass would come to substitute for ash and Dinoc for mahogany. It was a slow death, and the last real wood exterior trim of any kind on an American vehicle appeared on the Dodge Adventurer 150 "Li'l Red Express Truck" option available in 1978 and 1979.By the time I had my summer epiphany in San Diego, woodies were already in their second incarnation as an American icon. Furniture makers constructed the first of them on truck frames in the late 1920s. The car replaced the horse-drawn vehicles–jitneys or hacks–that had hauled passengers from train depots to hotels. Woodies were, literally, “station wagons,” and you’ll see them turn up. In Southern California, the place to see any style in wood cars is the annual Wavecrest meeting, held every September at Moonlight Beach near San Diego. Trophies are given for Best 1960s Surfing Woodie and Best Hot Rod Woodie. There are big-money restorations and Model A’s with rotting wood, Buick Estate Wagons with fewer than 50,000 miles on the odometer and more Town and Country wagons than Pasadena’s Rose Parade. Lovely as these ghosts are, there’s nothing that can duplicate your first time. Nearly 40 years ago, on the afternoon when I saw that first woodie in a San Diego gas station, I was just way to my part-time job in a suit and tie. What I watched from across the street was a preview of another kind of life, one that was raw and vital, one where a whole world was spread out along the coast waiting to be discovered. It was a moment that changed my life–because that day I quit my job and started surfing.