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News Community Habitat recovers and restores Rickman Store treasure to community

Joyce Starr, FORS volunteer at left with the restored showcase at the Rickman Store. At right, Rick Westerman, executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Franklin, his wife Debby, member of the board, and daughters, Cloe and Colby. Photo by Elena Carlson.A valuable piece of the history of the Rickman General Store is back in its original home thanks to a contribution from Habitat for Humanity. A 1930 wood frame glass showcase from the Saginaw Company in Michigan, used by Tom Rickman to display valuable merchandise, was rescued from destruction and returned to the historic building in the Cowee Community this winter.

According to Rick Westerman, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, in 2008 Macon Bank invited Habitat to a property that was in foreclosure. The bank offered Habitat any items they could use for their projects. The showcase was found on the porch of the house with the glass broken and full of junk.

Volunteers of Habitat for Humanity carefully deliver the showcase to FORS volunteers. Photo by Bob Scott.Craig Bridge, volunteer with Habitat, suggested that the showcase be fixed for its use at their thrift store. Bridge made all the necessary repairs to bring the piece to useful condition, and the showcase was used for displays at their re-sale store for three years.

Mack Brogden, grandson of the late Tom Rickman, recognized the piece and brought the origins of the showcase to the attention of Westerman. Brogden shared many stories about his grandfather's general store in Cowee making it evident to Westerman that the old piece of furniture had great historical value for the community.

After several conversations with Habitat and the approval of its board, the piece made it back to Cowee in January of this year. Friends of the Rickman Store, (FORS) Jerry and Joyce Starr arranged the return of the showcase to the Rickman Store. Volunteers from both organizations helped in the move.

The showcase is now back in place at the Rickman Store. It has been carefully cleaned and restored to its original condition. FORS, a group of volunteers formed after the purchase of the store by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT) in 2007, are grateful for the return of this "treasure" to the store, and look forward to sharing it with the community.

The historic Rickman Store is located in the heart of the Cowee-West’s Mill Historic District on 259 Cowee Creek Road, seven miles north of Franklin off highway 28. Parking is available at Cowee School. For more information, call (828)369-5595.

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