The business that Milton built

Wilbur and Rudy’s is social center for community

Photo by suzanne pacey/staff
The facade of the building has remain nearly unchanged since opening as a general store 80 years ago.
Photo Provided by the BOWersox family
Wilbur and Rudy's Farmtable owners Beth and Ryan Bowersox with sons, and business namesakes, Wilbur, 5, and Rudy, 3
Photo by suzanne pacey/staff
Wilbur and Rudy’s stocks merchandise from local artists and vendors, along with locally grown and sourced foods.
Photo by suzanne pacey/staff
Customers are invited to hang their personalized coffee mugs on the wall to use on each visit.
Photo by suzanne pacey/staff
The cafe does a bustling business in organic coffee drinks, pastries and light fare throughout the day.
Photo
By CANDY WAYLOCK
Posted

Contained within the comfort of Wilbur and Rudy’s Farmtable are a host of memories of a store that first opened more than eight decades ago and has found renewed life as the social center of Milton.

Every morning, regulars gather for coffee, and the day is filled with shoppers looking for unique handcrafted items from local vendors, organic, locally-sourced food in the European-style market, or a light lunch in the cafe. On many evenings, live music and wine tastings draw crowds after the business hours are over.

Named after the two “rambunctious” sons of owners Ryan and Beth Bowersox, Wilbur and Rudy’s Farmtable is located at the Birmingham Crossroads on Hickory Flat Road, and will celebrate its first anniversary in May. It is located in the old Buice General Store, which opened in the 1930s and closed in the 1980s.

Ryan Bowersox says he feels the building belongs to the community and he is grateful to be part of its revival.

“This great old building is a gift to everyone.  Curtis Mills is the owner of the property and from the beginning we shared his vision of making the corner great again and preserving this old building for another 80 years and future generations,” he said.

Opening Wilbur and Rudy’s Farmtable was an idea that Ryan and Beth “bounced around” for the better part of six years with no particular location in mind, until a fortuitous visit to Milton presented their path.

“We were first introduced to Milton in June of 2014 while traveling to sunflower fields in Alpharetta for family pictures,” said Ryan, a native of Wyoming who moved to Atlanta in 2001 after graduating from college in Michigan. “We passed the building that is now Wilbur and Rudy’s and fell in love with the building and the area.”

He and Beth, who grew up in Snellville and worked in the mortgage business for years, had an idea of blending the craft markets they loved into a little place of their own. The former general store was the perfect setting. 

They signed a lease within two months, and four months later the couple opened a small Christmas store, selling trees and a few other items to “test the market” before going all in with a renovation of the entire building.

In that short time, they learned the ideas the community had for a new 

business, and soon set to work planning for Wilbur and Rudy’s.

“The ‘aha’ moment happened once we really learned what the community wanted and how we could be the vehicle for that,” said Ryan. 

The couple began full renovations on the building in February 2015. Three months later, on May 16, Wilbur and Rudy’s officially opened as an organic coffeehouse, café, market, gift shop and wine shop with weekly wine tastings. 

Ryan said the market sources from as many farmers in north Fulton, Cherokee and other nearby counties as possible, and prefers to buy within a 50-mile radius of the store when possible. 

It truly is the business the community of Milton built, he said.

“The business started out as a means to sell products but has morphed into something much greater,” Ryan said. “Milton is such a unique area.  It feels like stepping back to Mayberry and [our] goal is just to enhance that sense of community.”

The most successful part of the business is something the couple originally never planned for – the coffee shop.

“But many customers came in and said what the area really needed was a coffee shop,” Ryan explained. “With some extra space to spare, we decided to open an organic coffeehouse that hand roasts daily. And, boy, are we happy with that decision.”

Regular customers gather as soon as the doors open, grabbing their personalized mugs from pegs on the wall to serve themselves and take their places among a choice of cozy seating options throughout the store. 

While the compliments are constant, Ryan said the most meaningful are those that come from people who remember the Buice General Store and appreciate the new changes that keep the character of the building intact.

“The renovation was quite extensive [but] the bones are all the same,” said Ryan. “A huge effort was done to not change the building and keep it as original as possible.”

The building was brought up to current code, from handicap to safety upgrades, along with new floors, light fixtures, wiring, bathrooms, HVAC, decks and other primarily cosmetic changes that will keep it structurally sound for another eight decades.

Members of the Buice family have visited Wilbur and Rudy’s and often get emotional when the memories of the past come back.

The best story, said Ryan, was when the great-granddaughter of Doyle Buice came in and related the history of the old pecan tree in front of the store.  Doyle had a single pecan in his pocket, and told his young granddaughter that he wondered, if they planted that pecan in the dirt out front, would it grow.  And grow it did.  

“It is now a 60-year-plus-old pecan tree that is thriving!” said Ryan. “Stories like this are priceless and that is why this old building is so important to the community.  We love being a part of something this special.”

Looking ahead, Ryan and Beth have a few plans under consideration, including the addition of a small restaurant for lunch and dinner service, and an expanded social calendar to bring in large-scale music events to compliment the host of smaller events. Lastly, they are in the process of cleaning up the entire 7-acre parcel for more space options for weddings, birthday parties and other large events.

But, as they’ve done since the beginning, the couple will work with the community to build the perfect plan.

“It was a long road with a lot of hard work along the way and worth every sacrifice,” said Ryan. “Being a part of this great community is so fulfilling ... [and we] promise to keep making it better and better.”

For more information about Wilbur and Rudy’s Farmtable, and for a calendar of events for their one-year anniversary, visit www.farmtablemarket.com.

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