Looking Forward with a Decades-Old Outer Banks Establishment

By Hannah Lee Leidy | Thursday, July 2, 2020

For more than 60 years, the Cotton Gin has been an Outer Banks icon. Shoppers of every generation love it for the general store eclecticism and the treasure trove of goodies brimming in every room. For the locals and vacationers journeying from the west, the bright red, farmstead shop in Jarvisburg offers a majestic mile marker, announcing only 10 more minutes to reach the bridge and enter the Outer Banks.

60 years of business isn’t without its setbacks. Any business owner knows some years are good, others tough. A business needs dedicated leadership, a bulletproof business model and the ability to adapt in order to endure the times. It’s these qualities that the Cotton Gin has relied on for decades. In the wake of past year’s major events, these qualities turn into necessities for survival.

In October 2019, a devastating fire engulfed the store’s flagship location in Jarvisburg. Fortunately, customers found familiar looks and goods at the other Cotton Gin locations in Corolla, Duck and Nags Head, but travelers passing through Currituck bid farewell to the majestic old cotton gin. About six months later, each location and Sanctuary Vineyards (the Cotton Gin’s partner business) closed its doors due to COVID-19. The business relied on its online shoppers and sales for nearly two months before reopening.

For many small businesses, either of these challenges would cause irreversible damage, but the Cotton Gin’s leaders, the Wright family, rolled with the blows and adapted to the ever-changing situations. They made constant adjustments to their business model to keep up with the times, driving their customer base to their online shopping pages for the Cotton Gin’s products and Sanctuary Vineyards wine. They promoted actively on their social media pages, announcing new products and pop-up sales. Their perseverance placed them in the forefront of their followers’ attention for times such as Easter, Mother’s Day and the home improvement projects that happened almost universally this spring. Thanks to this, the Cotton Gin and Sanctuary Vineyards welcome shoppers and sippers (both in person and online) for another season of shopping traditions and making memories.

The Cotton Gin’s remaining three stores all salute the original with farmhouse exteriors complete with gables, Southern-style porches and the feeling that, upon entering, you’re stepping into a friend’s country home. Each presents the same shopping experience treasured by generations of shopping families. Inside, it’s not uncommon to see a younger customer sifting through the racks of Simply Southern, Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide clothes as their parents admire the nearby garden decor and the little ones entertain themselves with the toys and books or by simply wandering from room to room within the shopping emporium.

The Cotton Gin’s shopping evolution doesn’t stop there. Sanctuary Vineyards greets visitors with an outdoor wine experience in the Currituck countryside. Surrounded by the rolling fields, guests can unwind at the winery’s shaded picnic tables, sample the products and admire the grape vines. Seated at your own picnic table with your crew, it feels almost as if you have the winery and vineyards all to yourself – quite the Provencal scene in the heart of Currituck!

Soak up the fresh air and sunlight as you enjoy a glass or flight of Sanctuary Vineyards’ award-winning wines. On Thursday evenings during the summer, they host their Acoustic Sunset, where you can sip away the sunset while catching performances from local and regional musicians. Discover your favorite wine and get a bottle to take to the beach or back home. If you have less time or already have a bottle in mind, you can simply swing by the winery to pick it up or have it shipped.

Between its online shopping push and outdoor wine tastings, new elements refresh the familiar way of visiting the Cotton Gin and Sanctuary Vineyards. They’re not only appropriate for the times, but they’re also innovative – pioneers for the Outer Banks shopping experience. However, you’re still greeted by an inviting porch whenever you visit the shop, whether at home or on your computer screen. A step or click ahead, you can admire the merchandise and nostalgia pieces beloved by all generations. It’s these elements shoppers have known for more than 60 years, and they’ve become traditions accenting each shopping trip to the Cotton Gin.

The Cotton Gin Logo

Jarvisburg: (252) 491-2387 | 6957 Caratoke Highway
Corolla: (252) 453-4446 | TimBuck II
Duck: (252) 261-2387 | 1185 Duck Road
Nags Head: (252) 449-2387 | The Bypass, MP 14.5
cottongin.com  |  sanctuaryvineyards.com

About the Author Hannah Lee Leidy
Hannah Lee is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer living on the Outer Banks. She graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. Traveling is her passion, but nowhere ever feels as much like home as the Outer Banks. When not planning her next trip or adventure, Hannah Lee loves aimless drives down the Beach Road, spending copious amounts of time in coffee shops and reading every short story collection she gets her hands on.