In the center of Burson’s Feed and Seed sits a circle of wooden chairs among the organic fertilizers and other soil enrichment products, a relic of the friendships the late Ronald Burson created during his lifetime. On this Friday evening, together with their spouses, Jim, Lee, and Cissy Burson – Ronald’s surviving children – bustle around their family’s general store, taking one last inventory check on various gardening, home decor, and hardware items. Various family members choose some of the store’s hallmark items – mementos of a family legacy rich with character, generosity, and love that they cherish of their predecessors, especially of their parents, Ronald and Carole Burson.
Even in the wake of Mrs. Carole’s passing away fifteen years ago, Mr. Ronald kept his store open with all the fixin’s Carrollton homes, gardens, and farms needed up until his passing this past February. Cattle feed, garden tools, and seasonal items like Christmas gifts and sleds have decked the shelves over the years – but not without a family story behind each of them.
Dr. Jim Burson, Ronald’s eldest son, reminisces fond memories of his parents and the store. Even when he spent countless, grueling hours working alongside them through slow and busy seasons, he cherishes their ingenuity and strength throughout the decades.
“I never went on spring break because, well, Mom and Dad needed the help!” he chuckles. He admits that didn’t fly with his teenage self very well, but now has no regrets spending quality time with his father, who taught – and demonstrated – what good, hard work really meant.
Cissy shares a similar memory of Carole calling her at a friend’s house one Saturday morning wondering when she was going to show up at the store. Again, the usual teenage reaction kicked in, but she showed up anyway, the admiration she had for her mom drawing her in.During the usual growing season, they served Carrollton through their involvement with the Downtown Merchant Association of which Carole was a charter member. The DCA served Carrollton by helping with the downtown Christmas decor, the Christmas parade, and other downtown activities. But the reputation for showing up and showing out has a long history.
Burson’s Feed and Seed, previously called Jackson-Burson Feed Store, began with a partnership. Henry Burson, Ronald Burson’s father, teamed up with a gentleman named A. T. Jackson who owned a seed store at the current Burson Feed and Seed location. In 1950, Jackson offered one year’s worth of free rent to Burson if he sold his fertilizers in his store and received a portion of the dividends. This partnership helped lay the foundation of what was to become Burson’s Feed and Seed in 1951.
Although Henry had favorable winds to establish his store, each generation invested invaluable time and serious ingenuity to keep it sailing. Cissy Burson explained that her father would attend trade shows for two to three days at a time, just to go straight back to his store and work for another four to five days. Even when his chronic foot problems gave him every reason to take it easy, Ronald Burson found ways to stay on his feet, on hard concrete floors nonetheless Similarly, Carole invented new reasons for the community to visit the store: wrapped holiday gifts in parcel & twine, pictures with Santa, and even pet portraits. When the weather and temperature turned northerly, the Bursons still showed up to offer salt for the roads, sleds for the kids, and hay for animals, after stopping to warm their hands occasionally at the store’s few space heaters.
“The thing is, my parents weren’t out to make a huge profit,” Cissy said frankly. “They just needed enough.” Customers often remarked, “Bursons sells service first and product after that.”
When I asked what family legacy they want to bring with them from their family’s past, Cissy and her brothers pondered for a few minutes before answering.
“My kids’ working with their grandparents,” Karen, Jim’s wife, says fondly.
“And treating others like they were the only one in the room,” Cissy adds.
All of the children agree that Ronald and Carole’s work ethic and community commitment are treasures they brought with them into their own lives and that of their children. The torch of character may have passed to them, but the business baton has been passed to another small business owner nearby. Carmen Hopson of Bowdon’s Erion Farm and Ranch Supply now showcases the famous nail barrel Mr. Burson had in his Carrollton store.
As I left the store, passing the Jim Dandy chalk boards, the weathered registers, and the yellowed calendar, I took one last glance at the wooden chairs. They symbolize what’s really the center, the heart, of the Burson family legacy: community, ingenuity, and friendship.
Carrollton, support the Bursons one last time this coming Saturday, May 6th, 2023, for their last closing sale. They’ll be open from 9:00 A. M. to 3:00 P. M. and look forward to reminiscing with the community. Current inventory view in the gallery below:
Click here to see a video interview where Mr. Burson was featured on History Worth Saving’s Podcast in 2020.
Featured Photo by Jim Quails