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The wife and I stopped by the General Store late on Sunday night, around 9, hoping against hope that chef/owner Gillian Clark might still have some fried chicken and collards available for take out. She didn’t. She had sold the last of her birds about three hours earlier, so we had to satisfy our General Store itch with some face time with Clark’s partner, Robin Smith, who told us the story behind the bear diorama and the slogan, “Grab a Root ‘n’ Growl.” (See picture.)
As a child growing up in California, Smith knew it was dinner time whenever her mom used to holler, “Grab a root and growl!” Smith, somewhat sheepishly, admits she never gave the phrase much thought until one day, in her teens, she suddenly realized that it had ursine connections. Up until then she always considered the phrase merely a call to chow.
Rather than let the phrase fester as just an embarrassing memory, Smith and Clark have embraced it as part of their new General Store in Silver Spring, which opened this weekend for take-out only as the partners continue to iron out their parking issues with Montgomery County. The problem was finding a stuffed bear. Smith, understandably, had no idea how to secure one, but she eventually found a taxidermist who would do the work at a price the partners could afford. Which lead to the next obvious question: Did Smith and Clark need to provide their own bear?
Nope, the taxidermist told Smith, he had a couple ready to stuff.
The bear diorama, with said stuffed critter pawing around for a root no doubt, now sits proudly atop the Nickelodeon player piano by the front door. (More on the piano later today.) It strikes me as a nice nostalgic touch in a renovated 19th-century post office/general store that’s dedicated to gentler times, when people still composed hand-written letters and when mothers called their children, still playing in the streets, to dinner with a simple holler from the front porch.