Simple Blessings: Bringing an old-time feel to downtown

Published 3:37 pm Monday, July 2, 2018

Stepping through the doors of Simple Blessings General Store in downtown Elizabethton can be like stepping back in history, and that’s just how owners Rita and Keith Russell want it.

Just over a year ago, Rita and Keith opened Simple Blessings as a way to help bring back the memories they both have of shopping downtown and to help a new generation create their own memories of old-time country stores.

Growing up here, both Rita and Keith have fond memories from their younger days of shopping downtown with their families. Rita recalled the stores and the wide variety of things you could find in the downtown shops. Over the years, as the Russell family traveled, they would often go out of their way to find a small country store that reminded them of their childhood experiences.

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After enjoying those shopping trips themselves, Rita and Keith decided they wanted to open a store to share the atmosphere of those old country general stores with others.

And they knew just the place to do it… the same stretch of downtown where they created their own memories.

“We grew up here,” Rita said when asked about their decision to start their store in Elizabethton. “It’s our home.”

Rita grew up in the Powder Branch and Happy Valley area, while Keith was raised in Hampton.

“We shopped downtown as kids with our families,” Rita recalled. “We enjoyed it and we love those memories.”

Over the years, the old general stores began to close or move away, and while downtown was still here, Rita said it was different.

“We missed it and felt it was missing in our community,” Rita said of the country store atmosphere.

And thus, Simple Blessings was born.

Even the name speaks to the mission of the store. “Our goal is to bless others the way we have been blessed,” Rita said.

To that end, after opening the doors Rita and her family became very active in the downtown community joining in with special events like the Downtown Trick-or-Treat, Christmas Open House, and the weekly cruise-ins held from April through October.

Shoppers at Simple Blessings can find a wide variety of items — from Lodge cast iron cookware and old-fashioned candy to the work of local artisans and the Simply Southern line of clothing and accessories.

Tucked away at the back of the store is The Lunch Bucket where shoppers can also grab a bite to eat from their menu of hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, loaded chips and nachos, and even hand-dipped Mayfield ice cream.

“We’re trying to make it a destination store, something that Elizabethton is known for so people know they can come here and shop for these items and enjoy our downtown,” Rita said.

Simple Blessings General Store is located at 508 E. Elk Avenue in downtown Elizabethton.