Today is Saturday, July 22, 2017

Take a sweet trip to Circle P Ranch General Store

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Rufus Page, proprietor of the Circle P Ranch General Store, and produce manager Justin "Cotton" Ferrell, right, perch on the front porch of this new "old country store" that opened in Mt. Juliet in April. KEN BECK

Mt. Juliet Americana village off and running

Mt. Juliet native Rufus Page is not a man of many words. He's a doer rather than a talker.

Course, there was a time when he was a dreamer.

Lately, he's been making those dreams come true. Two years ago he erected what is likely the only covered bridge in the county, and three months ago he opened his Circle P Ranch General Store.

"It was just a childhood dream," said Page, who has lived on the ranch for 28 years.

The dream come to fruition features a café with burgers and sandwiches, but what seems to be capturing folks' attention is its old-timey soda fountain and a dazzling array of homemade desserts that star cookies, cakes and pies.

And like Detective Columbo says, oh, one more thing, the Saturday morning brunch may be evolving into a runaway train, a train filled with sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy. You country boys get the picture.

The past two Saturdays some 250-plus hungry hombres have bellied up to the breakfast bar, and there's been no deputy sheriff to hold them back.

"Everybody says I should put up a sign," said Page, who has yet to advertise other than having a Facebook page. "I got too much business. When you got 40 people walking in all at the same time, it's hard to handle."

But he ain't complaining.

His 6,000 square-foot general store stands two stories tall. Built by local carpenters Andy Jones and Derick Meadows, 90 percent of it was constructed of Wilson County cedar on the property. The interior features an atrium where guests can peer down into the center of the place.

And in the center is where you may bump into a mammoth chromed 1906 Imperial Universal stove that came out of an old hotel in Chicago.

"Joe Thompson told me Al Capone used to sit by the stove, and Joe Thompson don't tell no whoppers," reported Page, a man who favors milkshakes and sundaes over Prohibition whiskey.

He describes the eatery as "a step back in time where you come in, sit down, relax. Let the girls make you a banana split or a milk shake. We got a deli with hamburgers and sandwiches, homemade pies, cakes and brownies. We sell Mennonite store items from Ohio."

The general store's general manager, Greg Cole, says, "Rufus started something here that I don't think he anticipated. I think people were just itching for something that was real simple, that takes them back in time a little bit. It's been going gangbusters, and we've gotten almost overwhelming support locally.

"It's almost a shock factor when they come in. It's a really unique environment. There's not anything else like it in Mt. Juliet. The soda fountain is all new to kids, but it is something that just never goes out of style."

Speaking of kids, Leah Shanks of Lebanon brought her four daughters (Mollie, Ellie, Maggie and Mary Grant) to the store last week, and they tackled their ice cream treats while sitting on the front porch.

Ellie had just one word for her strawberry ice cream cone: "Phenomenal."

The store is open Thursdays through Saturdays. Page has eight employees, half of them teenagers, running the store. General manager Cole, who worked for 26 years in corporate marketing, sort of invented his role.

"Several years ago, I decided to do cookies as a home-based business. It sort of exploded on me, and I decided to let it sit instead of expanding.

"I stumbled on to this on Facebook and read about the soda fountain and the Amish market, and I posted one night that the only thing they were missing was the best cookie in Mt. Juliet."

That led to a sit-down between Cole and Page and a decision to add fresh baked items to the menu, which led Cole's made-from-scratch cookie, pies, cobblers and cakes.

The pie selections include buttermilk chess, chocolate fudge and pecan. The cake varieties range from strawberry to banana to carrot. And the cookies go by such flavors as chocolate chunk, double-chocolate chunk, white chocolate macadamia, oatmeal raisin and the best-selling Snicker doodles.

"I love it. It's the polar opposite of anything I'd ever done in marketing," said Cole, who adds the grilled bologna, grilled pimento cheese and Cajun turkey sandwich have proven very popular.

The Circle P Ranch is also a working garden, thus fresh produce, such as Heirloom tomatoes, corn, squash, beans, cantaloupes, peaches and watermelons are peddled on the front porch. Just see produce manager Justin "Cotton" Ferrell, who will be a senior at Mt. Juliet High next month.

In the meantime, Page has an Americana village in the making. Heck, he's over halfway there with his covered bridge, a windmill, log corn crib and the store already set in place.

By late August, he plans to have the century-old Leeville train depot moved here, and by year's end there just may be a 110-foot tall fire tower on the grounds.

The ranch has been the site for several years of the Mt. Juliet Homecoming. The 2017 version is set for the last weekend of October.

A two-acre lake sits behind the store, and Page would like to transform it into a fee fishing hole by the fall.

"It would be so you could bring the family down, buy a bologna sandwich, some worms, get a fishing pole and go fishing. I'm making this a family place, a place for weddings, parties, reunions," said the quiet man who knows how to get 'er done.


Circle P Ranch General Store

This new "old country store" offers a lunch menu with killer desserts in the form of cakes, pies and cookies. It also boasts an old-fashioned soda fountain with a variety of ice cream treats and stocks a batch of Mennonite goodies out of Ohio. There is a country breakfast buffet 7-10:30 a.m. Saturday mornings. It seats 120. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Friday, and 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Address: 563 Main Street, Mt. Juliet. Phone: (615) 568-5215. Address: Located at 563 Main Street. Directions: From North Mt. Juliet Road, take West Division about a half a mile and turn left into Cloyd's Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The ranch is behind the church. Website: www.facebook.com/AmericasCountryStore/.

Rufus Page, proprietor of the Circle P Ranch General Store, and produce manager Justin “Cotton” Ferrell, right, perch on the front porch of this new “old country store” that opened in Mt. Juliet in April. Open Thursday-Saturday, the store features burgers, sandwiches, a fabulous soda fountain and an amazing array of made-from-scratch cookies, pies and cakes. At left, Carly Hobbs and her children Anniston and Sawyer are polishing off ice cream for dessert. KEN BECK
From right, enjoying their ice cream cones at the Circle P Ranch General Store are siblings Maggie, Ellie and Mollie Shanks of Lebanon. Their mom, Leah, and little sister, Mary Grant, opted to dine from a bowl.
Circle P Ranch General Store manager Greg Cole holds one of his mouth-watering homemade pies while standing beside a 1906 Imperial Universal stove that came out of a vintage Chicago hotel by way of a Tennessee antique store.
Dining on the back deck of the Circle P Ranch General Store, Ron and Carol Clevenger and grandson Braden Millsaps, 3, of Mt Juliet, prepare to tackle burgers and fries.
Digging into sweet treats at the Circle P’s old-fashioned soda fountain are, from left, siblings McKinley, Colin, Kate and Carly Mitchell. Babysitter Sarah Fast holds Colin on her lap.
The milkshake makers behind the soda fountain are Robin Fast, left, and Holly Lewis.
Circle P Ranch General Store manager Greg Cole leans against a counter that showcases some of his baked desserts. Meanwhile, diners enjoy their meals upstairs and on the ground floor of the unique Mt. Juliet eatery and store.
The Circle P Ranch boasts a variety of yesteryear attractions, such as the windmill at left. Also on the site is a covered bridge, while coming down the road are an old railroad depot and a retired Tennessee fire tower.
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business, Circle P Ranch, General Store, Ken Beck, Mt. Juliet, Rufus Page
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