Lisa Meyer, owner of Cherokee Market, has a public meeting tonight to hear from residents about her plans to relocate to the former W.A. Lathem and Sons General Merchandise building, a more-than-a-century-old relic of the Lathemtown community.
Meyer is asking Cherokee County to rezone the Lathemtown property to allow her business, a produce market to open shop. Cherokee Market is being driven out of Bell’s Store by South Georgia-based Flash Foods’ plans to tear down the building and put up a gas station.
She’s hoping the Lathemtown community will welcome her displaced business, as the Buffington community has for years in the Bell’s Store building.
“I think we’ll be an asset to the community,” Meyer said Wednesday of her plans to bring life back to the former Lathemtown general store that opened in 1906 on Highway 20. “I’ll do whatever I can to keep everybody happy and keep doing what we’re doing.
I just want everybody happy.”
Meyer said her public input meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at Cherokee Fire Station 4, and the Cherokee County Planning Commission is set to take up her request to rezone the land from light industrial to general commercial April 1.
In the meantime, she has been given a lease from Flash Foods that will allow her to stay in Bell’s Store, also a former general store, until the end of June.
After the lease runs out, the building built in 1935 may be destroyed.
A Canton-based construction group has requested to tear down the building. It’s not clear when the company was hoping to get rid of the building, but a temporary moratorium from the Board of Commissioners on demolition permits for certain historic structures has kept the request from being granted.
Flash Foods, through Macon-based real estate broker Jim Rollins, has offered to let Meyer, the Cherokee County Historical Society or basically anyone else have the building if they will move it off the land.
The Historical Society has been searching for someone to allow the landmark to be relocated to their property, but Stefanie Joyner, executive director of the nonprofit organization, says it isn’t going that well.
“We’ve got a couple irons in the fire, but I’m losing hope,” Joyner said Wednesday. “I really am losing hope that we can find a solution. If there’s anybody in the community who wants to step forward, now’s the time.”
Meyer said even though she’s setting her sights on the Lathemtown building, she may be willing to operate another Cherokee Market location in Bell’s Store at some point, if the Historical Society finds a way to move it.
“I would love to. But, as of right now, I’ve got to have an income,” she said. “That’s going to be a long process. I have to do what I’ve got to do.”
Some properties have been considered for the Bell’s Store move, but Joyner said, “Every time it seems like we’ve got a site that’s going to work,” it falls through.
“It’s asking a lot for someone to either donate a piece of property or let us move it to their property,” she said.
The cost of the move, which has been estimated at about $40,000, is another big hurdle to get over, along with the cost of prepping a site.
“My annual budget is $180,000,” Joyner said. “It’s not like we have cash reserves” that could pay for it.