Before relocating with his family to Fayetteville in early 2017, Patrick Leclair worked as the director of visual presentation for Ralph Lauren-Club Monaco in New York City.

Visual appeal is a personal strength, and he has since put that talent to good use at Leclair's General Store in the Wooten building off Fort Bragg Road in Haymount.

Leclair creates the design of the store layout, blending pieces of antique and vintage merchandise into this studied retail collage of yesterday and today.

When customers enter the business, they're likely to encounter the 39-year-old Leclair. Because nearly everything inside is for sale, he is constantly having to reconfigure the look of the store "to make it feel fresh with the most current products."

Small business owners and professionals make up much of the core clientele, he said, but customers range from 21 to 80 years of age. Some of them bring their laptops and establish squatting rights in the store's open, comfortable setting.

In the mornings, it's a safe bet to see familiar faces on a regular basis.

"It's a small-enough town that people seem to know about the store," Leclair said Friday morning. "It hits a lot of people's interests. The majority of the floor is well-rounded - an assortment of quality goods. Our goal is to sell other businesses' products."

But there's more to this unique small business concept - Leclair's updated spin on the old neighborhood mercantile store - than coffee, beer, wine and prominent displays of handmade local artisan pieces. Leclair's General Store has evolved into a go-to place for the community, a hip place to hang out and socialize with friends, family and complete strangers.

Space can be rented for special events. Sustainable Neighbors holds weekly meeting at the store, and the community program Better Block Fay has held functions on the premises.

"It's very easy and comfortable to partner with other local businesses," he said.

On Saturday, the owner has scheduled another in a series of "Wine & Bites" gatherings, where some of the newest wines will be paired with a special dinner menu. Tickets are on sale, and the event is limited to 30 seats.

After working his way across the country with retail management, Leclair first started pondering the possibility of starting a store with design and decor items forged with modern specialty goods. Specifically, he noted, the coffee, craft beer, wine, local artisan pieces, books, and vintage and antique merchandise.

"I wanted to improve my quality of life and spend time with family and friends," he said. "Although it is a risk, it's very satisfying. I have made so many friends from having this store. I have a good clientele — you have to earn that. We get a lot of new customers every week."

The general store, which opened in May 2017, carries a range of products while anchored by sales of fresh coffee, craft beer, wine and handmade goods. Its roughly 2,500-square-foot space serves as a staging area, if you will, for vintage furniture, paintings, hand-woven baskets, jars of honey, and hand and body soaps and creams. A stringed banjo hangs from a wall on one side of the store, while an old movie theater poster is displayed in a corner for Bob Steele in "Thunder in the Desert" ("also comedy and cartoon," it reads).

A hard-back biography of Ernest Hemingway and a copy of Hunter S. Thompson's "The Proud Highway" can be seen up front under glass in a display case. Old books and vinyl recordings also can be perused in a back room amidst a collection of other antiques and vintage merchandise.

Thus far, he said, the concept has proven successful.

 

"What made it successful in Fayetteville," Leclair said, "there was nothing like it here."

 

Staff writer Michael Futch can be reached at mfutch@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3529.