Gas, Grub & Gossip: “If You Stand Around, You Can Hear a Lot”

Country stores are good places to get what you need and to see everything from friendly faces to ghosts

By: Drew Bratcher

Charles Rice outside his store in Cordova, Maryland.

Thirty-six years ago, at the urging of his father—a store owner in Easton, Maryland—Charles Rice drove ten miles up the road to Cordova and bought Harry Slaughter’s country store. Rice, 61, says he’s kept the place running by adapting to the times, but the store—a white wooden farmhouse with a red screen door—is straight out of Mayberry. Rice’s 85-year-old mother makes the salads sold at Rice’s Country Store—chicken, potato, egg, and tuna. While filling up at the two gas pumps, customers sip on Cokes and talk local politics. Rice listens. “If you just sit or stand around,” he says, “you can hear a lot.”

Photograph by David Deal