I haven’t traveled anywhere with the exception of brief trips to Rocky Mount for occasional grocery shopping since my husband and I took a quick weekend trip to Asheville in September. On Saturday we finally got away for the day, taking a brief excursion to the Town of Wendell.
Wendell is a lovely little place. Their town website promotes a truthful tagline: “Small Town. Big Charm.” I completely agree. Wendell is just a short one-hour drive from Halifax. As you may know, Wendell is just 12 miles east of Raleigh on Highway 64. According to a 2019 population estimate, the Town of Wendell has approximately 7,300 citizens.
Wendell may be best known from the business and reality show of the same name Lizard Lick Towing & Recovery. I glimpsed the Lizard Lick building as soon as we exited the off-ramp, but we weren’t in Wendell for that reason. This little jaunt was truly a husband-wife trip. My husband’s goal was to visit Perry’s Gun Shop to explore and possibly make purchases related to the upcoming turkey season in April. For a locally-owned shop, the parking lot was packed, which forced us to drive two blocks farther and park in a convenient public lot, located adjacent to a cute town park with a gazebo and a stage and within convenient walking distance to the downtown business district.
Once we finished at Perry’s, it was time for lunch, and I had done my research on the way and located a lovely restaurant called Farmers & Merchants, housed in the beautiful historic Farmers & Merchants bank building built in 1917 with an ornate tin ceiling, exposed brick walls and original tile floors. We began our meal by ordering an appetizer of collard and black-eyed pea egg rolls. You may react to that description like my husband did at first, with raised eyebrows and a questioning look. I said, as I always do, just try it. In addition to eating the egg rolls, he was eating a bit of crow because they were so good. In fact, he says he wishes he had ordered two orders of them just for himself as his meal. We also each ordered a flat, which was a thin, crispy, flat bread pizza. My husband had the Merchant’s flat with salami, pepperoni, pesto, roasted red pepper, red onion and balsamic drizzle, and I had the Killer B with cubes of brisket, caramelized onions, gouda and barbecue sauce.
From there we took a short stroll across Main Street to visit three business that connect inside; the owners combined all of their passions into three distinct businesses. We passed through Suggy Bear’s Ice Cream because we were still so full from lunch, though the 40 flavors of local ice cream from three local farms was truly tempting. We entered Huggy Bears Pet Market and were greeted by the most beautiful Labrador Retriever/Newfoundland mix, one of two mascots of the business (the other was running errands with his dad). Huggy Bears sells all sorts of dog and cat foods, treats and toys, and welcomes four-legged friends. I purchased two flavors of homemade treats for Sunny — peanut butter and liver and cheddar. Finally, we strolled into Brindisi Wine, offering wines from around the world, as well as craft brews. Here I splurged on a beautiful Spanish red wine, two locally-crafted bottles of mead from Honey Girl Meadery in Durham (one mango, one blueberry), and a cute little bottle of pink Saki.
After making friends and making purchases, we walked a bit farther to the Wendell General Store with the usual colorful displays of old-fashioned bulk candies and lots of great local food products, including pancake and cookie mixes, preserves, pickles, meats, eggs and ciders. I purchased a blackberry cider for my mother, as well as those three-color coconut bars. The General Store also sold ice cream, which we once again avoided, as well as hand-crafted items, such as jewelry and pottery. Finally, we headed back to the corner of the block to visit Carter’s Baking Company, which looked and smelled amazing. There I spent a few minutes watching one of the decorators ice personalized sugar cookies for a fisherman’s retirement and chatted with the owner and baker. I selected one of each kind of homemade danish for Sunday’s breakfast, as well as one of each flavor of large cookies — chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar, and peanut butter — for Saturday night’s dessert, which we shared with my mom upon our return.
What an amazing trip! We still have much to revisit and more to explore in Wendell. There are lots of other eateries, a craft brew pub, a coffee shop and a distillery that will soon open. It doesn’t get much better than lots of local fun just down the road a piece with my wonderful husband!
Christina Wells lives in Halifax with her husband Bruce and their dog Sunny.