The Revival Of The Legendary Palmdale Store
By: Nancy Dale
After 16 years, the Palmdale Store has re-opened as the “Palmdale Cracker Country Mall and Social Club;” the only restaurant and convenience store for miles around in the heart of beautiful, pristine Glades County.
The new General Manager, James Sprague and his wife, Beth, discovered Palmdale when they decided to move from Fort Lauderdale. “We began our search for a more rural area in which to live and work. Driving north on U.S. 27, I saw a ‘Cook Wanted Sign’ posted on the old Palmdale store. I contacted Larry Taylor, the owner, we met and he hired me,” said Sprague. Taylor also owns South Dixie Truck Sales down the street and has fought many years through grandfathered zoning trials and tribulations to re-open the store.
”Over the past three years I opened and managed three Fort Lauderdale delis and served as Executive Chef. When I got this job,” says Sprague, “I moved to Palmdale with my wife and other family member to begin re-furbishing the Old Florida landmark. I am focused on re-creating the legendary Old Florida atmosphere of the store and restaurant, featuring country-style cooking and specialty dishes. I hired five other employees elevating Palmdale’s population from about 300 residents to 562. The Palmdale Cracker Country Mall and Social Club, I discovered is the perfect rural location to start over. But Beth and I decided we needed to come up with a new name for the restaurant that reflects more than just a fast food eatery and convenience store, thus, we came up with the new name.”
Many locals have always met at the store to eat and socialize when it was previously opened and now everyone can gather and enjoy a delectable menu and relax in the breeze on the beautifully remodeled cracker porch.
“We first expanded the old front into a large breezy wrap-around “cracker porch” with wooden benches and dining tables, adding a touch of the wild with a beautiful McCaw parrot in an outside cage nearby,.” Sprague adds. “Besides the outdoor facelift, the Spragues’ added additional shelves inside and stocked them with old time favorites from the days of Old Florida. Some of the specialty items include Orange Blossom honey, Guava jelly, Everglades seasonings and a favorite for kids of all ages, grabbing a hand-full of wrapped candy on the bulk candy aisle. There are sugary treats such as original salt water taffy, candy coated almonds, “Bits of Honey” filled with peanut butter, “Nick Nips, the old fashioned wax bottles with colored sweet syrup, Tootsie rolls and Cracker Jacks with the prize inside, and, there is more. Sprague says not only does the store offer a unique dining experience; it has “a little bit of everything.”
Above the wooden shelves lining the inside walls of the store, are original pictures of Palmdale’s heritage “cow hunters” and their families who settled in Palmdale in the 1800s. The store stocks camping/fishing gear, hunting supplies, cattle, horse, and game feed for wild boar, deer, and turkey hunters.
Since the store re-opened in 2015, local area residents, long time former patrons, truck drivers and travelers along U.S. 27 have re-discovered a place in their heart and began to once again drop in and stay awhile. Long time Palmdale resident, Ray Hendry whose mom used to work at the long gone, Palmdale Hotel, sells homemade carved wooden benches displayed on the porch
Sprague had not stopped short of offering a wide selection of country dishes described on the menu including specialty items made to order such as Cuban coffee and sandwiches. The “Quick Start Station” offers help yourself homemade dishes including scrumptious chicken and dumplings, chili, cornbread, biscuits, cheese grits, locally grown collard greens and ham hocks and ice cream, guava pastry or cheese and coconut flan for desert. There is also a wide selection of drinks to choose from such as sweetened/ unscented tea, pop, beer and wine.
While visitors were browsing through the store, Beth Sprague was busy designing and painting a brand new sign to be posted along U.S. 27 pointing the way for travelers find their way to the front doorstep. Comfortably lodged on the cracker porch, are three bikers from England exploring America were enjoying a refreshment stop. Bryn Thomas from United Kingdom, Kevin Horton and Simon Garnham from England wanted to know more about the story of the pioneer “cow hunters” and were looking at the book, “Where the Swallowtail Kite Soars – The Legacy of Glades County, Florida and the Vanishing Wilderness,” by Nancy Dale, available inside.
The Palmdale Cracker Store and Social Club is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, served 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, closing on Sunday at 3 p.m. On the weekend is the “Saturday Night Special” featuring local Palmdale entertainers who play a variety of country favorites for listening and dancing.
For a unique experience, delicious food and socializing with all those drawn to the legendary Palmdale landmark, The Palmdale Cracker Store Mall and Social Club is a revival of Old Florida.
For more info:
www.nancydalephd.com or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org