take me back to the old sautee store
2315 ga highway 17
sautee, georgia 30571
mon-sat - 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
sun - 12 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.
i grew up in clarkesville, georgia. no one knew where that was until i said, "it's close to helen. you know, that the little german village." immediately, people would nod their heads in understanding. and north of helen and over a snaky mountain passage, my parents had a getaway cabin in the little hint of a town called hiawassee. what made this little town special was the georgia mountain fair which was held every year smack-dab in the center of town. hundreds of visitors would swarm during the fall and take over the vacant field next to mcconnell baptist church and the old deserted school house that sat up on the hill. today, they have moved north of town to hundreds of acres where thousands of people still feel right at home.
but every weekend, my mama, daddy and me would hop in daddy's green chevy truck. we'd pack everything in the world in the truck bed and then cover it with an old brown tarp. we'd head toward that getaway cabin some 90 minutes away - an eternity according to my kid's clock. truth be told, i hated it there. there were no other kids in hiawassee. i knew why that school house was only used during the fair. they didn't have any kids to fill it. i was it. the only one under the ancient age of 60. my grumbling became an art form.
i knew we were about halfway between home and hiawassee when we reached that magical german village. and the signal that i knew we were close to helen was that sharp curve on highway 17, and i caught sight of that rustic old sautee store.
about the time the chevy took the curve, i started pleading for mama and daddy to stop. it was a store - albeit if full of old stuff - it was still a store. something to look at. but more than anything, there was cheese.
the free cheese and the skinny crackers were unlike anything i had ever tasted. i had no clue of its norwegian heritage. all i knew was the path to the lady in the back. i'd run to her, get my sample, walk around and do it all over again. i made my rounds at least three times and as i headed back for the fourth sample, mama popped me on the head and said, "stop." we never bought it to take home, but oh, how i loved that cheese and the old sautee store.
not much has changed.
today, there's still the lady in the back with the cheese samples. and just like those childhood days, my first stop is not to look at the trolls or the one of a kind scandinavian knit sweaters, but the table covered with white cheese. and before she can even ask, i'm nodding my head in acceptance and i'm remembering mama, popping me on the head. it's called farmer cheese and you can buy it in a two-pound package. i get about four pounds every time i visit. and sure enough, it's from sweden.
and those skinny crackers, kavli. you guessed it. from sweden.
there's other products - like wool mittens and cold-weather gear - even scandinavian hand-knitted sweaters and even grimacing trolls dotting the pine wood floors. you'll find the best local products and even some honey and jam. and for a second, you'll forget that its the 21st century where simplicity is hard to come by.
it's a must stop for those traveling through the north georgia mountains. this white county treasure hasn't changed much in my fifty years of visits, but each time i pass, i have to stop. i find i'm just as excited now as i was back when the old sautee store was just an excuse to get out of the green chevy and postpone the hiawassee adventure.
there's magic when you walk through the creaky pine doors, and if you can make it past the box on the porch where the frisky tailed creature lives, you'll find endless, timeless treasures.
the best one of all, farmer cheese and skinny crackers.