The Cotton Gin was destroyed by fire in a Saturday blaze.

The Cotton Gin was destroyed by fire in a Saturday blaze.

There is only the charred remains of the Cotton Gin left in Jarvisburg. The popular store that has been so much a part of Outer Banks life for the past 60 years burned to the ground yesterday.

It is tragic and sad, for the Cotton Gin was, to so many people, the signpost telling them they were almost to the Outer Banks.

Eleven miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge, the Cotton Gin called out to be explored. Entering it was like entering into a retail zone like no other.  It seemed to ramble on endlessly, with rooms that gave the appearance of being someone’s attic as much as some well thought out store plan.

There were always surprises to be found. There were kitchen gadgets that most people probably hadn’t seen for 20 or 30 years. Stuffed animals seemed to find a natural home there. You could spend three hours just checking out the Christmas ornaments.

What Made the Cotton Gin So Special

And that’s just a small sampling of what the store was like.

Much of the charm of the place was that it was so clearly not a corporate chain store. Nothing about it was preplanned or payed out by some merchandising mavin in a headquarters 500 miles from reality.

That seeming lack of organization, or at least slick presentation, was what made the Cotton Gin such a wonderful store to visit. The staff was always excellent. Knowledgeable, pleasant to work with, but beauty of the store was to be able to find some hidden nook and explore on your own.

And now it’s gone. It may be rebuilt. Hopefully it will be. But no builder could ever match the perfect randomness of the rooms. Or for that matter, it’s hard to see how that could ever be permitted in today’s standards construction. Understandable, but it’s still sad.

There are still three Cotton Gins on the Outer Banks in Corolla, Nags Head and Duck. Corolla is probably closest to the Jarvisburg store, but honestly it’s hard to see how there could ever be anything quite like it again.