American as Apple Pie: My Day Trip to woodruff’s Store Cafe and Pie Shop
After reading about Woodruff’s Store Café and Pie Shop in Southern Living last fall, I decided it’s not often that we have celebrities in our area. I wanted to meet the owner Angela Scott and sample some of her magazine-worthy pie! So my friend Sarah and I set out on a day trip to visit the famous pie shop on Elon Road in Amherst County.
Although I found a deep and satisfying appreciation for both the caramel apple pie and the coconut cream, my focus took an unexpected turn as I became fascinated with the rich history of Woodruff’s Store and the Woodruff family.
Woodruff’s Store began as a blacksmith’s shop in the late 1800s. Angela Scott’s great-grandfather, a freed slave who fought in the Civil War, opened the shop with his pension. A prominent part of the county’s history, the blacksmith shop was Amherst County’s first business owned by an African American.
The building’s ownership has passed down through the generations, and over the years, changes and additions have been made to it. The original structure was built as a shelter so that school children didn’t have to endure bad weather as they waited for their school buses. A second story was added later and in 1951, Angela’s parents, James and Mary Woodruff, opened a general store in the building. According to locals, Woodruff’s Store has always been known as a kind of haven, a place where you can go if you need help. James and Mary had the reputation of quietly helping people who had fallen on hard times and never turning away a customer who was in need of food.
Stepping over the threshold at Woodruff’s Store Café and Pie Shop is a bit like taking a step back in time. Pictures from that kinder, gentler era adorn the walls of the charming one-room store. There are four tables with chairs and a display case filled with pies, potato salad and “angel eggs” (the opposite, I was told, of deviled eggs).
Although Woodruff’s Store shuttered its doors as a grocery in 1982, Mary’s daughter Angela Scott breathed new life into it when she reopened it as a café and pie shop 16 years later. Angela, her sisters (who are twins!) and cousin all make those fabulous pies from scratch, using two residential-size ovens that accommodate four pies at a time.
At the back table, you will likely find matriarch Mary Woodruff. At 97, she is bright, witty and in full command of her faculties. Amidst the aromas of vegetable soup and the warm scent of pie, Mary invites visitors to sit at her table and talk while they have their lunch or pie and coffee. Did you know that Johnny Woodruff, the athlete who won the 800-meter run in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin alongside Olympian Jesse Owens, is part of the Woodruff’s rich family history? Mary will tell you all about it. Her presence and her stories make it difficult to leave the warmth of the store and the history that permeates its walls.
As I was leaving, feeling warm and well-fed, I expressed vague concern about the number of calories I’d just consumed, but Angela Scott knowingly assured me that when pie is sampled for purposes of research, it contains no calories.