Who would have thought that an old car dealership turned marketplace turned Pittsboro General Store Cafe would have impacted so many people? Or that, after moving just south of Pittsboro six years ago, I would be writing passionately about a restaurant that wasn’t here much longer than I was?

There are probably not too many people in this growing town who remember the General Store Cafe’s first two lives. But over the years, the town embraced this establishment as an anchor of Pittsboro. Relatively new to the area, my husband and I observed several special occasions therebirthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and one especially momentous occasion, when my husband told me that our future son-in-law was asking for our daughter’s hand in marriage. I imagine many others can relate such special times spent at the General Store. After all, it had become a permanent part of our community. Permanent, that is, until last week, when the GSC closed because of financial troubles.

I am not sure how we originally learned about the General Store Cafe, but the first time we visited, we knew it was a good fit for us. Some people may say that The General Store’s service was often slower than expected, but I disagree. Instead, our time there was our evening, and the relaxed mood just made it all the more welcoming. The cafe offered local art, diverse entertainment and unique food, all of which reflected the “wellness” of the community. Customers had to appreciate the GSC’s overall theme, understanding that most everything on display was for sale, that it was fine for strangers to stand right next to your table to get a better look at the art. When we started going there, before the expansion, the cafe was almost always standing-room only on the weekends. That sight made us feel like Pittsboro had found its placeand us, ours.

Would the owner, Vance Remick, have known my name or face? Probably not, but walking into the GSC felt like walking into a microcosm of a caring community. The owners tried to avail the space for meetings, movies and dance sessions, making sure that its town had some place to grow. Indeed, as a patron, on almost every visit I admired the hand-painted mural of Chatham County and said, romantically, “That’s where I live.” It all felt very much like the heartbeat of Pittsboro, the core of a place still defining itself.

Is this an editorial, or just one person’s story? I don’t know, but I believe I am speaking for many others in Pittsboro who believe our collective heartbeat has been weakened, who want to see the town thrive beyond the loss of what was obviously more than a restaurant. We must give visitors a place to “aim,” to embrace the arts, to witness the uniqueness that Pittsboro wants to offer. I will continue to aim for Pittsboro and support what’s here now, as well as its future as an art-infused community full of history and hope. Thank you, General Store Cafe, for playing your part.