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Cape Fear Pride: Harrell's Department Store

READ MORE: Cape Fear Pride: Harrell's Department Store
For more than a century folks in the Pender County seat have known one name when it comes to shopping: Harrell's. We visit the fourth-generation running the family business in this edition of Cape Fear Pride. Even as Burgaw has grown and changed over the years local shoppers have known where to go since 1903. That's when Chauncey Harrell and his sons opened for business. Vernon Harrell said, "It was a general mercantile business. It had everything from the pickle barrel to horse collars." In 1924 Ross Harrell split off from his father and brother and moved next door to open Harrell's department store. Ross eventually turned over the keys to his son Charles, who brought his son on board in 1985. Herb Harrell said, "Got out of college and told my father I'd come work for him for a year and see how it went, and I'm still here today." Today Herb Harrell runs the store with help from his brother Vernon. "The store is here because it's been part of the community for so long. People are comfortable here. And that's one of our big assets." That's not to say things haven't changed at Harrell's over time. As competition has increased, the store has evolved, upgrading the quality of its merchandise and even adding a coffee shop. Harrell's offers some hard to find items, like hats. But it's still a place to find everything from dress shirts and jeans to lawn mowers and washing machines. Herb Harrell said, "You have to stay abreast of what's going on. You have to get what people want." The Harrells say their clientele has passed through generations of local families just as the store has been handed down through theirs. The store, Vernon says, is a bit of an anachronism. A relic of the past living on in present. Perhaps it feels like a page out of your own memory. Or maybe you just remember it from a movie -- 1997's "I Know What You Did Last Summer." And as Burgaw continues to grow the Harrells aren't worried about big-name competitors hurting the family business -- rather helping it. Herb Harrell said, "It'll draw more people to the area as a whole to shop, and they'll enjoy shopping at our store." In all, five members of the Harrell family work at the store. And that doesn't count the children who often help out as they grow up. Vernon Harrell said, "When someone walks in our door, we're looking at them more as a friend than as a customer. And that's the way we like to do business."

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