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RIP Fat Man’s: Still today, nothing compares to the place where you could get everything.

November 9, 2011

It was Halloween day, and I needed fake blood.  I also needed some bandage-type things, a toy gun, and some sparkly make-up.   I know it was the eleventh hour, but that always seems to happen when trying to get every component of a costume together.   Sparkly Kitty and Bloody Zombie were counting on me.

I got in the car and traipsed over to the big box store.  It was a nightmare.  Everything was picked over and the store was crowded.  The employees were required to work because it’s holiday time, but all had another place they’d rather be.  Some things will never change.

But some things do.  Two and a half years later, the empty lot on Laney-Walker still saddens me.

I didn’t grow up in Augusta, but shortly after moving here I knew the importance of Fat Man’s Forest.  As a matter of fact, I worked there.  I was in between jobs and just needed something to do.  I never really left once I started.  Sure, I stayed home when The Kids were born, but in the two years in between and every Christmas, I made my way back to The Forest, earning a little (love you Brad!) extra cash and spending every penny on gifts for myself and others.   My kids saw Santa there for the first time.  They knew they could find Tony, who’d happily give them jelly beans.  Mrs. Jan made me rest when I was pregnant and feeling faint.  Mrs. Carolyn calmed me when I was stressed.  Mr. Paul over-filled our peanut cups, and Mrs. Opal put together the prettiest flowers.  I could go on and on.

Anyone who worked there will tell you, with rare exception, it’s a jack-of-all trade kind of place.  You don’t just work there as a cashier.  You aren’t just a taker of floral orders or a bow maker.  Just about everyone could complete just about every task.  Because of this, it felt like a team.  Like family.

Most people won’t be surprised by that.  It was a family owned, family operated emporium.   I challenge you to come up with a place where you ride a train, order flowers for your girlfriend, rent a Santa suit, get a gift wrapped, have bows made, print custom stationary, pick up your wedding invitations, snack on boiled peanuts and a glass bottle Coke, shop someone’s wedding registry, design your landscape lighting, decorate your Christmas tree(s), find that perfect pumpkin, and pick up fake blood, all while the employees call you by name and let you put your wares on your charge account.  Oh yeah, when you’re done, you can walk a few feet for a meat and three or Pearl’s special of the day.  Where?  Right.  There isn’t a place.

Whatever the reasons may have been, it was time for the owners to make a change.  That doesn’t mean we’re okay with it.  When I was racing around yesterday, I craved the smell of cinnamon candles and freshly popped popcorn (even if we did burn it a few times).  We actually didn’t get a pumpkin this year, but it wasn’t because I didn’t want to.  When Fat Man’s was around, getting a pumpkin (or Christmas tree) was an event, and it was so convenient.  We’d go, in costume, to ride the rickety train and go through the little “haunted” house.  Nothing else has been quite as meaningful, though I know there are other options in town.

It was a funny little place.  No one understood the description of my place of employment until they walked through one of the many doors.  Once they visited though, they got it.  It was a special place.  For sixty years, it was our neighborhood everything store.  You can still get the meat and three, Pearl’s home cookin’ and more at the café, which is at Enterprise Mill.  Go get the vegetable soup, grilled cheese and a fat slice of red velvet cake.  They’re even boiling peanuts this fall.  While you eat, look around and see the decades of memorabilia on display.  Memories may be all we have, but they’re good ones.  If you don’t have any of your own, ask your neighbor.  There are plenty to go around.  Whatever happened to that train, anyway? (for more info about Fat Man’s and the cafe)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mandi permalink
    November 9, 2011 4:04 pm

    Loved this article! Even though I didn’t live in Augusta, when visiting my now inlaws I made a special trip every Thanksgiving! There is NO store that compares!

  2. Tricie Scholer permalink
    November 9, 2011 9:24 pm

    My thoughts exactly! I miss Fat Man’s so very much, all year long! Especially in the Fall, of course, and Christmastime for sure. My boys all worked in the Tree Lot with their idol, Mr. Paul, and so many other men, all of whom we were so happy to have around our boys. The kind of people you want your children to look up to; fine, hardworking, family values guys. They all still stay in touch. Then on the inside Ms. Jan, with Brad and Miss Carolyn led a wonderful group too, who appreciated our children and helped us raise them, too. Plus there was always the perfect gift or item, and a dear friend to help pick that out. I remember going to Fat Man’s long ago with my Nana, and many other times until the last days.
    I will always miss that place.

  3. Holli Bradberry permalink
    November 11, 2011 1:18 pm

    What a tribute! Thank you for that stroll down memory lane. Miss you Fat Man’s!

  4. November 16, 2011 4:13 pm

    Used to go every Christmas. There will never be another one!

  5. Kellil permalink
    September 16, 2013 7:32 pm

    I was just telling my kids about this place. I’ve never been anywhere else like it. I was also telling them about Burnt Mills Haunted Plantation. Both of these places were a must around Halloween and Christmas. I miss them. 😦

    • Jenny permalink*
      September 17, 2013 2:38 pm

      I wish they’d come back! I tell the owners this regularly! They knew they had a special place but didn’t quite realize the emotional impact they’d had on families for years! I will check out Burnt Mills. How fun!

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