PHOTO: Teresa and Norm Gielda stand under the original Davis General sign outside the store in Leiper’s Fork on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. A new sign will replace the old one, which will be moved inside the store.//Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
On a sunny Monday afternoon, Norm Gielda was listening to country music on the radio as he straightened up the inside of the now-shuttered Davis General Store.
Soon, his wife Teresa popped by, fresh off a Costco run to pick up meat as they begin tweaking a recipe for a brisket sandwich they plan to offer when the historic store reopens at the end of October. They are planning a grand opening for the beginning of November.
Closed in April of 2017, the Gieldas purchased the property in March as a passion project to renovate and run together.
The Davis General is at the corner of Leiper’s Creek Road and Robinson Road, just past the Boston Church of Christ and not quite 5 miles south of the Fork’s tiny downtown.
Ninety years of history
The Boston community in southwestern Williamson County was first settled by Revolutionary War soldier William Sparkman in 1801.
Today, the unincorporated community has a population of under 2,000 people, with little in the way of non-residential buildings or stores.
The Davis General Store first opened in 1928, running under owners D.L. Hawkins, M.T. Carlisle, then Pete and Lois “Miss Pete” Davis.
The store was moved from its original location on the banks of Leiper’s Creek up toward the new road built on abandoned railroad tracks that year.
Passed down lore holds that the store was moved on wooden logs pulled by mules, the Gieldas said.
According to historian Rick Warwick, the store soon burned down and was rebuilt by the Carlisle family as the Davis store.
The Davis’s son, Joey, and Patsy Davis ran the store before matriarch Lois Davis died in 2016; the store eventually went on the market.
Several of the Davis children live in Franklin, and the Gieldas say they stop in from time to time to see how the work on their old family store is coming along.
A family project
The Gieldas moved to the Leiper’s Fork area nearly two years ago after living in Southern California for 35 years.
He’s a military and police veteran, and she was a 911 dispatcher when they met at the Santa Ana Police Department.
With a child still at home, Teresa researched places to live, and came up with Franklin for the friendly feel and high-achieving school system.
But with Teresa telecommuting for her legal job and Norm retired, the couple sought a project to work on together.
She first noticed the Davis General Store while driving their daughter down the back roads to school.
They contacted their Parks Realtor, Thomas Murray, whom they had bought several area properties through. He told them the history of the Davis store, which has a 1928 cottage toward the rear of the property.
But they lost the property to another bidder.
“I told Tom, ‘That’s really weird, I felt like this was meant to be,’” Teresa said.
Shortly after, Murray called the Gieldas and told them the purchase had fallen through, and the property was available once again.
When the Gieldas decided to purchase the property, it was with an appreciation for the history of the building and area.
“We wanted to keep the name,” said Teresa Gielda. “We wanted to honor the history of the Davis family.”
Norm referred to himself as the “general contractor” in fixing the property up, and they outsourced to have repairs made to the original front door and wood floors.
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These original floors got a face lift! Still recognizable and lots of character but safe, clean and refreshed thanks to @brillianceflooring . Next up is repairing these great old windows and doors 💚🖤💚 . . #pleasekeepthestainsandpatches #oldwoodfloors #preservinghistory #countrystore #generalstore #bostontn #leipersforktn #franklintn #thedavisgeneral #5600leiperscreekroad
“We just needed to make it clean and safe, but we’re still keeping all the original features,” Teresa said, like the cabinets and some of the original wood paneling, which they have painted.
They will offer food from a deli selection, convenience store items, and gasoline, and hope to serve the early morning commuters with food and coffee as well as provide a place for a lunch crowd.
It was important to have a grocery element to the store, with fresh butter and dairy items for those who don’t want to drive all the way to the closest Kroger, about 12 miles away in the Westhaven neighborhood, for basic items.
“We’re really open to letting the community tell us what it needs,” Teresa said.
With the project has come a sense of belonging; many living in the area have poked their head in and asked about the store.
Everyone who stopped by has been excited about the reopening, and the restoration of a longtime central point in the rural community.
“We’re hoping for that sense of community,” said Teresa. “I think we’ve already found it, really.”