Molasses Junction Country Store a community gem
By Kimeko McCoy
Molasses Junction Country Store is the kind of place you have to be looking for to find.
Drive down County Road 214 for miles, past open potato fields and the occasional roadkill. When you see the sign that says “Today’s special: ribs, chicken and pork butt,” you know you’re there.
Located right in the middle of the solitude of western St. Johns County farmland, the store, which is almost 60 years old, looks like the setting of a country music video.
Its rustic charm has even been featured the 2007 movie “Moving McAllister” featuring Mila Kunis.
David Doan, store owner since 1996, has seen celebrities like Kunis and Salma Hayek make their way to Molasses Junction.
“They put their pants on the same way we do, but it is exciting,” Doan said.
The people Doan really wants to cater to are his customers.
Most of them he knows on a first-name basis.
“Everybody just has respect for each other, and it’s a good family environment,” he said.
Residents are scattered around Molasses Junction, with the country store being the most visible sign in the little community.
It’s a safe bet a newcomer to town is going to wonder: How did this place get its name?
Naming Molasses Junction
Before Doan purchased it, the country store was run by a longtime resident of Molasses Junction named Elizabeth Pursley.
“She was a cornerstone for the community,” Doan said. “She helped raise most of the kids around here who are adults now.”
Pursley, a native of Palatka, and her husband moved to the area as potato farmers.
Locals will tell you, she made a mean egg salad.
The couple opened the store in 1957 and decided to name it after a giant molasses spill that happened during the Flagler Era.
Donald and Marianne Rogero know the story well, as the mishap was credited to Donald’s great-grandfather, John Rogero.
His great-grandfather was a sugar cane farmer who turned the crop into molasses.
He transported the molasses by train, which would stop at the junction of what is today C.R. 214 and C.R. 13A South.
“As best as I can remember, my great-grandfather was loading the train with barrels of molasses and they all rolled off and broke,” he said. “That’s how Molasses Junction got its name.”
Pursley died 12 years ago after selling the property to Doan.
He said she left behind a simple mantra: Know your customers and treat them like family.
So when a customer walks in, he personally greets them. And when they’re ready to make their purchase, he rings them up on the old-fashioned cash register perched at the front of the store.
“Just keep the door swinging,” he said.
‘Store of knowledge’
Although it may be remote, Molasses Junction Country Store is home now to Doan, who traded a career in home health for life in the country.
“You see all the stuff that goes on in the world and how crazy it is, and it makes you grateful for our little corner,” Doan said.
Gary Strickland is a friend of Doan’s, and now that he’s retired, he’s free to spend most of his day at the front of the store talking to customers and spitting tobacco juice into the trash can next to him.
“We call this the store of knowledge,” he said. “Every walk of life comes through here.”
Over the years, Doan has made changes. Toward the back of the building, there’s space for special events, and karaoke night is the first Saturday of every month.
Doan opened a restaurant that sells three square meals per day in the store.
“When things started going south in the economy, I always wanted a restaurant,” he said. “So I figured I might as well go broke trying to do it.”
There’s more than meets the eye at Molasses Junction Country Store.
“It’s a shame people have lived here so long and they don’t know where it is,” Doan said. “It’s kind of a hidden treasure.”
Taken from The Record June 18, 2015