Made in Georgia: Success is like making sausage for this beloved general store

Beef jerky, a favorite at Stripling’s General Store, always is found right at the cash register, for easy impulse purchases. Courtesy of Portfolio Center

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Beef jerky, a favorite at Stripling’s General Store, always is found right at the cash register, for easy impulse purchases. Courtesy of Portfolio Center

For the past 30 years, Stripling’s General Store in Cordele has been the place to break your journey when traveling to and from the Florida panhandle. This family-owned business got its start in the 1960s, when James Stripling, son of Monroe Stripling, managed his father’s grocery store in downtown Warwick.

In addition to managing the store, James tinkered with making sausage. By 1964, he had perfected his recipe and opened a butcher shop on the family farm. The shop quickly became known as the “sausage kitchen.”

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Stripling’s General Store started out in 1964 as a sausage kitchen on the Stripling family farm. The sausage still is made according to that original recipe. Courtesy of Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

Stripling’s General Store started out in 1964 as a sausage kitchen on the Stripling family farm. The sausage still is made according to that original recipe. Courtesy of Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

Combined ShapeCaption
Stripling’s General Store started out in 1964 as a sausage kitchen on the Stripling family farm. The sausage still is made according to that original recipe. Courtesy of Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

“When my great-Uncle James died, his nephew, Ricky Hardin, who is my father, took over the sausage business full time,” said Ashley Goss, who carries the title of vice president, and manages Stripling’s General Store’s operation with her husband, Clint, and her sister, Lindsay. Monroe Stripling was Ashley and Lindsay’s paternal great-grandfather.

“In 1991, we went from the 1,000-square-foot sausage kitchen to a 9,000-square-foot store, and that allowed us to go back to our roots, running a full-service grocery store,” she said.

Their great-uncle’s sausage recipe proved to be the foundation of a growing business that now boasts three family-run stores — two in Cordele and one in Perry — as well as a licensed store in Bogart and their first franchise location, which opened last March in Brunswick.

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The newest Stripling’s General Store is in Brunswick. Courtesy of Todd Stone

Credit: Todd Stone

The newest Stripling’s General Store is in Brunswick. Courtesy of Todd Stone

Credit: Todd Stone

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The newest Stripling’s General Store is in Brunswick. Courtesy of Todd Stone

Credit: Todd Stone

Credit: Todd Stone

Expansion to the larger store meant the family could stock much more than freshly butchered meat and house-made sausage. They began carrying products from hundreds of companies, everything their customers needed to make dinner, from produce, to salad dressings and desserts. In 1995, they began making beef jerky, which now rivals their sausage in sales and is available in more than 300 stores across the country.

Goss has fond memories of growing up around the original cinder block sausage kitchen. “We lived next door, and sometimes set up a lemonade stand out front.” She went off to college and other jobs, but it took the family purchasing a slaughterhouse in Moultrie to bring her into the business full time.

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Two generations of the Hardin family still manage Stripling's General Store. From left, Dustin Land, Lindsay Hardin Land, Lisa Hardin, Ricky Hardin, Ashley Hardin Goss and Clint Goss are pictured at the grand opening of the Brunswick store. Courtesy of Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

Two generations of the Hardin family still manage Stripling's General Store. From left, Dustin Land, Lindsay Hardin Land, Lisa Hardin, Ricky Hardin, Ashley Hardin Goss and Clint Goss are pictured at the grand opening of the Brunswick store. Courtesy of Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

Combined ShapeCaption
Two generations of the Hardin family still manage Stripling's General Store. From left, Dustin Land, Lindsay Hardin Land, Lisa Hardin, Ricky Hardin, Ashley Hardin Goss and Clint Goss are pictured at the grand opening of the Brunswick store. Courtesy of Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

Credit: Stripling’s General Store

That Moultrie operation was key to the family business. James Stripling’s recipe required that the sausage be made with the meat from a freshly slaughtered pig. “The pig is slaughtered and processed within hours. It’s an old-fashioned way of making sausage, and we have never varied from that recipe. We knew we had to buy the slaughterhouse to keep making sausage the way we did,” Goss said.

That was just over 16 years ago.

“Growing up with the business, it sometimes surprises me that people will drive from all over to buy our sausage,” she said. “We’ve had people land at the local airport and ask us to meet them with a cooler full of sausage. People will call and say they are going on a fishing trip to Alaska and they want us to ship them a box of sausage, so it’s waiting when they get there.”

Business has grown so much that the Striplings now sell 600,000 pounds of sausage a year and 150,000 pounds of beef jerky.

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This hay-bale pig is a company mascot and shows up at all Stripling’s locations, as well as on social media. Courtesy of Abby Caroline Photography

Credit: Abby Caroline Photography

This hay-bale pig is a company mascot and shows up at all Stripling’s locations, as well as on social media. Courtesy of Abby Caroline Photography

Credit: Abby Caroline Photography

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This hay-bale pig is a company mascot and shows up at all Stripling’s locations, as well as on social media. Courtesy of Abby Caroline Photography

Credit: Abby Caroline Photography

Credit: Abby Caroline Photography

The stores carry a few other signature items. “Mayhaw jelly is one of the things people come especially to our store to purchase,” Goss said. “And people love our hoop cheese. Everyone wants a slice from that big wheel. It’s a Wisconsin product, and it’s very nostalgic for so many people.”

It’s not just nostalgia that’s helping Stripling’s General Store expand. “We have plenty of old-fashioned treats, like jawbreakers and ribbon candy, but our younger customers love the jerky and shop for their charcuterie boards,” she said.

Goss sees the appeal continuing, as she thinks about her three sons. “When they were younger, they loved going to granddaddy’s store and getting whatever candy they wanted,” she said. “The older they get, the more aware they are that other people know about the stores. It makes them proud.”

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