High Country staple shuts down after 25 years


Samuel Cooke

Jerry Cheek plays guitar while waiting for customers. Before opening the Tomato Shack Jerry played guitar for 10 years, he mainly played top 40 country music. With the Tomato Shack closing at the end of August, Jerry hopes to play music in his retirement.

Right outside Boone down Highway 105, the Tomato Shack Country Store has served the community fresh produce and canned goods for over 25 years. As of recently, the Tomato Shack can no longer maintain their normal operating hours and has been operating Friday through Sunday since the construction began on the 4.5 miles of Highway 104 between Foscoe and Boone. This has been a detriment to their business as it is no longer practical to keep perishable produce from spoiling outside of operating hours. Since then the store has no longer been able to keep fresh produce, and with their major product no longer available, the owner Jerry Cheek has decided to permanently close the store at the end of August, ending its 25-year run.

When entering the Tomato Shack, you get a blast from the past with countless antique memorabilia, old time-y posters, and a variety of cardboard cut outs from the various produce vendors lining the ceiling and walls. (Samuel Cooke)
Kim and Jay Chandler look at the old timey posters available for purchase at the tomato shack. The Chandlers have been customers of the Tomato Shack for 18 years, ever since they bought a house in Boone. Their favorite is the Tomato Shack Black Bear Jam, a three berry mix of blackberries, black raspberries, and blueberries. (Samuel Cooke)
Summer 2022 has left the tomato shack without the ability to carry produce. The widening of N.C. 105 between Foscoe and Boone has prevented the Tomato Shack from staying open the whole week. Without the ability to keep produce fresh, they have lost their main stream of revenue and closed Aug. 28. (Samuel Cooke)
Outside the Tomato Shack, wooden crates, buckets, and a “Half Runner Bean” sign are stored away in a shed. During the summer months half runner beans would be a popular produce item along with tomatoes and corn. (Samuel Cooke)
Cheek, the owner of the Tomato Shack, closes shop at the end of the day for the last time Aug. 28, 2022. The Tomato Shack has been a community staple bringing fresh produce from the Western Carolina Farmers Market. (Samuel Cooke)