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April 10, 2020 4 minute READ

Grab a Bite at the Store

tags Mast Family Favorites | Local Flavor | Behind the Scenes
locations Original - Valle Crucis

Back 40 years ago, you couldn't grab a bite to eat in the Valle. It meant a drive to Boone or to Banner Elk or to Mountain City over in Tennessee. That is until John and Faye Cooper decided to open the Mast Store Deli. Sandwiches and soups were served in the back of the store. Here's a little of that story, including a bit of it in Faye's own words.

If people decided to take the drive out to the Original Mast Store in Valle Crucis, John and Faye knew it would be important to give them a good reason to stay a little longer. That reason was … food!

In the early days, the store opened at 7 a.m. and closed at or around 8 p.m., so it was a long day and employees were few – just the Coopers (John and Faye and their two children). “I remember being very nice when people would come in at 7:30 at night to order four sandwiches. I was so tired, but I knew it was the community wanting to support us,” shared Faye. 

Deli MenuThe menu (pictured to the side – click to enlarge) included several different sandwiches served with sides. And you can't beat the prices! Soups of the day were also included. Early Mast Store employees got an extra perk because lunch was provided from the Deli.

Faye reminisced that the deli couldn't happen today, “I made big pots of soups and chili upstairs in our home kitchen. With health regulations, that would be impossible today.”

In 1982, the same year the Mast Store Annex opened just 2/10s mile down the road from the Original Store, the Coopers moved the Deli to the same building and hired someone to run it. “We made everything fresh, so people would have to wait on their orders a little while,” remembered Faye. 

One of the regulars at the Deli was the Coopers' banker, Alfred Adams. “I remember he called us when we were still living in Florida and said that he wanted to eat with us the first day we were open,” recalled Faye. Opening day was on a Friday, so the lunch was delayed until early the next week. 

“Mr. Adams would tell bankers from out of town that came to visit that they needed to look their best because he had made reservations out in the country for them to have lunch,” she said. The fare would include brown sugar, Ashe County Hoop Cheese, saltine crackers, and Vienna sausages (the correct pronunciation is vI-EEEE-Nah). That was served with a cherry or strawberry soda. 

“They'd pull up in front of the store, which at that time didn't have much paint on it, and the joke was on them,” chuckled Faye. 

Lisa Cooper added, “I remember pulling together the menu for the important bankers that would visit the Valle. It was served on a fancy piece of red-and-white-checked oilcloth. It was always a joy to take Mr. Adams' reservation when he called the store.” 

A long-time friend and customer shared this memory from 40 years ago: When they first re-opened the store, I came in frequently to get horse feed and chicken feed. It was back in our 'hippie-back-to-the-earth days.' I would get something from the deli, load up the feed, and gas up my old pick-up truck (that I bought from Merle Watson), then drive back across Dewitt-Barnett Road. There was no bridge there when we first moved to the Valle, and I had to drive through the river. Really 40 years ago!!

For your dining pleasure, here are a couple recipes from the Deli's menu. 

Cream of Broccoli Soup

8 ounces fresh broccoli, finely chopped (use a blender or food processor)
1 quart water
1 pint milk
1 pint half and half
Pepper (to taste)
4 chicken (or vegetable) bouillon cubes
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ sticks of butter or margarine
2/3 cup flour

In a large pot, combine broccoli, water, milk, half and half, pepper, bouillon cubes, and soda and bring to a boil. In a skillet, melt the butter, add flour and stir until smooth. After the soup boils, stir in the flour mixture. Cook slowly until it thickens (about 5-8 minutes). Serve and enjoy.

Chocolatetown Pie

½ cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 2 tablespoons bourbon)
1 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 9-inch pastry shell

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, add eggs and vanilla (or bourbon), In a small bowl, combine sugar and flour, then add to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour into the pastry shell and bake in a preheated 350º oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden. Cool for about 1 hour before serving.

** The lead photo is one of the famous Alfred Adams lunches. Many thanks to the Watauga Democrat for sharing this photo from the March 30, 1972 edition. 

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