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February 2, 2023 5 minute READ

Mast Store’s Foundation of Giving and Service

tags Behind the Scenes | Inspiration
locations All

Mast General Store has long served as both a hub and a haven for neighbors in its community. From the late 19th century through the present, the store has provided for the needs of those it serves, not only as a merchant but also as a philanthropist.

Today, the Mast Store still engages in community causes and cultivates relationships with local nonprofits throughout its region. Within its family of 11 locations, there are approximately 40 sustained, annual partnerships with nonprofit organizations.

These partners fall into three general categories of groups that perform the important roles of: Providing basic needs like food, clothing, or shelter; conserving land and preserving local history and culture; and mentoring children, uplifting at-risk youths, and enriching the community through the arts.

While the activities and associations are unique to each store’s home community, the spirit of giving and service at Mast remains constant. So constant, in fact, that community-minded giving is engrained in the 140-year tradition of Mast General Store.

“A good and helpful friend of the people”

The tradition began with one of the Mast Store’s first owners and its namesake, W. W. Mast. Mast purchased a half-interest in the store from its founding family, the Taylors, in 1897 before eventually claiming a full stake in 1913. 

Mast’s renowned career as a merchant lasted into the 1950s. More notable than its duration, or even his business’s success, was the standard of service he set. 

W. W. and Emma MastAmong his numerous community appointments, Mast chaired the Watauga County (N.C.) USDA War Board during World War II. He helped farmers improve their practices through the county’s Agriculture Stabilization & Conservation Service and also sat on the board of directors for the Northwestern Bank for many years. Mast championed education, too, serving on the local school board and the Board of Trustees of Appalachian State Teachers College, now Appalachian State University.

Also of tremendous significance to Mast’s community endeavors was his support of the American Red Cross, especially in the time of greatest need during war. Dating back to the spring of 1918, one year after the United States joined the Allied Powers in World War I, W. W. Mast proposed dedicating 10 percent of one Saturday’s sales to the Red Cross War Fund and issued a call for other merchants across the county to follow suit. 

Mast General Store, today, maintains this legacy through its annual Friends Day event. It’s an occasion on which each store chooses a nonprofit partner, whose representatives join the store staff in sharing its message with guests. At the end of the day, each Mast Store location donates 10 percent of its sales to its partnering agency, just as W. W. Mast did for the Red Cross more than 100 years ago.

When W. W. passed in 1959, his reputation as a leader, servant, and reliable neighbor in the community was lauded. His obituary in the local newspaper read as follows:

“By any measure of worth we know, Mr. Mast would have to rank as one of the county’s first citizens… Helpful, courteous, and kind, he ministered to the needs of the people, year after year, and proved a good friend to the residents of the country roundabout.”

It concluded with heartfelt words honoring Mast as “a fine citizen, a man of outstanding public worth and of sound leadership, […] a man of rare knowledge and sagacity, and a good and helpful friend of the people.”

Foundations, Footings, and Building up a Business, Community

Henry TaylorAs vital as W. W. Mast’s contributions to his community were and as entrenched as his personal philosophy of service became in the principles of his business, to think that he stood alone in his actions would be false. If Mast laid the foundation of giving through his example, for instance, the footings were set by his predecessor, Henry Taylor.

Think of footings as the footprint of a building’s foundation. They support both the basement and structure that is built on the foundation.

Taylor began building the first room of what we know now as the Original Mast General Store in 1882. When he opened the shop the following year, he would eponymously call it the Taylor General Store.

Taylor, like Mast, was a career merchant who had operated a smaller store, alongside a partner named Moore, in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, that predated the Civil War. Also like Mast, who would later purchase the store from Taylor’s family, Taylor shared a philanthropic nature and demonstrated goodwill for his neighbors.

Upon his death in 1899, a newspaper obituary poeticized the memory of Henry Taylor as it likened his character to the essence of the home, the land, and the people he served:

“[Taylor] was truly a philanthropist. No other man in Watauga ever fed so many of the hungry or sheltered so many of the exposed, without money or without price, as Henry Taylor. His hospitality was as boundless as the realm in which he lived, as high as the lofty mountains, and flowed like the rivers that trinkle from their feet.”

To this day, Mast and Taylor’s legacies are carried on in name and spirit in Valle Crucis through the store in which they made their livelihoods. Their examples are also brought into each Mast General Store community as new partnerships are forged to ensure that our hometowns are vibrant, our natural spaces safeguarded, and our neighbors better-equipped to live happy, healthy, and meaningful lives.

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