I fell in love with Bill's Grocery the first time I saw it. I fell in love with its fading Orange Crush mural, the green lettering above the windows, and the idea that at one time this was a thriving grocery where a community gathered, in good times and bad. But when I first saw this building a little more than a year ago, something didn't feel right. The outside facade was still standing but the inside had been gutted, leaving essentially an empty shell. I left that day wondering how many more of these buildings were scattered across Georgia. Since then, I've traveled across the South and seen buildings of all shapes and sizes, each with their own story to share. But with all the miles I've traveled, I can't say I've found a place that has been more special to me than Bill's Grocery. I made it a point to travel through Crawfordville whenever I had a chance, even if it added thirty minutes to my trip, just so I could check on Bill's Gro. Each time I went, the building seemed to be in worse shape, as if it was slowly dieing. While I secretly longed for the building to be gone, because it didn't deserve to end up like this, I still held on to the hope that it could possibly be preserved and restored one day.
During one trip, I met a man who lived down the street from the grocery. I learned that Bill died twenty years ago, and ever since, the grocery has been empty. And the slow death of the building, which I had seen over the last year and attributed to time, had really been the work of the county which planned to replace it with a handicap accessible extension to the courthouse across the street. Local citizens were fighting the county but didn't have the resources to win a drawn out legal battle. He asked me if I could help, and I said I'll see what I could do. It was the worst feeling in the world. I was helpless. Here I was, on track to graduate with a masters degree in accounting and become a C.P.A., yet I couldn't do anything. All I could do was take pictures of a building that wouldn't be here a year from now. While the demolition was delayed, at least temporarily, it was only a matter of time before the building became a memory. Last month, I went through Crawfordville on my way to Milledgeville. Bill's Grocery was gone. All that remained was a fenced off foundation with a pile of bricks that had once been so much more. I took a couple of bricks and a piece of the mural with me but I didn't feel any better. A part of me was gone.