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After 35 years, old Simpson store gets new life

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BY ELONA WESTON

SIMPSON -- The tattered stretch of La. 8 leads you to an old Vernon Parish landmark which, after around 35 years, is breathing again.

It's taken some elbow grease, some sanding, shine and paint, but Melody Parker McDonald has things at the C.H. Parker General Store looking pretty good.

McDonald's family is from Simpson. She's a school teacher with an affection for old things.
She teamed up with the store's owner, Charles Stuckey, to help create a trip back in time. It's now a gift shop with local art and interesting items.

McDonald kept the name. The Old Parker Store, she said, was just too well known in these parts to make a change.

"That's why I left the name, the Old Parker Store, instead of naming it something else. Because to explain where this is to anybody in Vernon Parish, you have to say, 'the Old Parker Store in Simpson,' " she said.

McDonald has been researching the store's history. The store opened in 1927, and it closed around 1977 or 1978.

"And it hasn't been open since," she said.

The original owner of the store was C.H. "Herman" Parker. A picture of Parker and his store dog now hangs in the store's entrance. McDonald said everyone remembers Parker and especially his pup.

"Everybody that walks in, all the older people who walk in and see the picture, they are like,  'There's Penny,' " she said.

McDonald loves hearing old stories about the place. She said some old-timers have told her that Bonnie and Clyde paid the store a visit in the 1930s. Her plan is to place a journal in the store so people can pen their memories.

The store had everything country people would need -- feed, fuel, tools, ladies' i
tems and food. Clues of that are all around -- from feed residue on the hard pine floor in the back to an old slaughter house, now hidden in the pine trees, a few yards away.

"They had their own beef. Across the road, there was a sawmill and they had their own pasture over there with the beef and stuff," she said.

McDonald has a vision. She wants to get more local items and handmade art to sell. A wood carver   and an artist, some of her creations are available at the store for purchase.

McDonald said it has been a satisfying experience -- giving new life to an old place.

"Sometimes I just look at it and think, oh my gosh, look what we did. This is so cool," she said.

The store is open Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


See more photos HERE.



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