Rustic Charm

At Knoxville Store, good food and a fun vibe—plus a water wheel—are worth the stop.

Rustic Charm

June 2022   minute read

By: Al Hebert

Jessie Pyles is co-owner of Knoxville Store in Roberta, Georgia. Her father built the c-store.

It might seem odd to travelers that in Knoxville, Georgia, the Texas state flag flies over the courthouse. The idea for the star came from a local woman named Joanna Troutman. Locals are proud of this. The founder of Coca-Cola was born in Knoxville, but the big attraction here is the food at Knoxville Store. 

“We never intended on being a restaurant,” Jessie Pyles, Knoxville Store co-owner said. “My dad, Bryant Pyles, framed houses. One day he decided to build a store. I didn’t think he’d do it. The next thing you know, he built it.” That was 2005.

It doesn’t look like a typical c-store. It’s an inviting, rustic wooden structure that appears homey and rather cozy. Customers were drawn to it, but soon, they wanted more than fuel and snacks. 

“People started asking for different things, and we try to accommodate them. We started doing breakfast. We got Hunt Brothers Pizza about 10 years ago,” said Pyles, adding, “We do quick and easy grab and go. We patty up our own hamburger meat on site and make quick sandwiches.” 

The key to the popularity of Knoxville Store’s burgers is fresh ingredients. “We use fresh ground beef. We don’t buy the frozen stuff. The burgers are seasoned on the grill. It’s a good size and a good burger, and we put whatever they want on it,” she said. 

The Chuck Wagon is becoming a popular menu item that came out of necessity. “It’s kind of funny. My husband was talking about a steak sandwich at work. The next week we couldn’t get our chicken patties. We just got this new breaded steak in. It was high quality. I said, ‘We’ll just throw this on a bun and see how it goes.’ The customers liked it, and we kept it going,” Pyles said. 


Pyles and her team took Hunt Brothers Pizza Wing Bites, added a few things and built a popular menu item. “We put those on a sub roll, add ranch and mozzarella cheese and run it through the oven. We call it the Buffalo Chicken Ranch Sub. 

Pyles said, “The omelets are phenomenal. We do them on the grill, and with Hunt Brothers Pizza, we can put anything we want on them. We use the ground sausage or diced ham and all the different vegetables, onions, etc.” 

Not long ago, the c-store decided to try a Grilled Chicken Philly Sandwich. “We grill the chicken with peppers and onions and put it on a Philly roll. We put it on Facebook, people saw it and came in to try it,” she said. “My staff asked, ‘Why’d you put that on Facebook? Now we have to make a hundred of them.’ When we put something on Facebook, it trends well. We get a good bit of feedback. People come in and try it.”

One component of the c-store’s robust foodservice program is Hunt Brothers Pizza. 


“You have to see the store,” Pyles said. “My dad cut down the trees and milled the wood himself. I tell people we’ve only been here 17 years. People say it looks like it’s been here forever,” explained Pyles. 

This might be the perfect location for a c-store. It’s nestled between two highways, away from big cities. It’s a frequent stop for motorcyclists riding the backroads. They enjoy the surroundings and simply watching the water wheel turn. 

“We have a natural spring that runs under the store, and we have to pump the water out to keep the ground dry. One day my Dad said, ‘We have to do something to make sure the pump is pumping,’ so my Dad built a water wheel. It’s added to the aesthetics, and it’s become an attraction. People love sitting in the gazebo above the wheel. It’s just real cool,” she said. 

If one doesn’t sense the country charm, simply look up. “We have a wall of deer heads above the cooler. My cousin Gary shot all those deer. He had a farm in Butts County, and he ended up giving us all of them. Hunters come in and admire. It’s a pretty good attraction,” she said.


Pyles gives her employees credit for much of the success. “I have the best staff. There are a handful of girls who have been with me for a long time. They grew up out here. They make the atmosphere fun and welcoming.” 

The c-store’s sense of fun is a big draw for locals. Trying new menu items adds to the adventure, like those salmon patties for breakfast on Sundays. “We’ve tried so many things. We just like to have and give people something different,” said Pyles.

From the buck-head trophies above the cold vault to the outdoor gazebo with a water wheel, Knoxville Store has character.

Knoxville Store is one of those wonderful places where the same folks visit each day for great food and that sense of home. Pyles promises that if you want something, all you have to do is ask, and her team will prepare a meal that will have you coming back for more. 

Pyles describes Knoxville Store as “a typical c-store.” This Crawford County gem is anything but typical. It’s a place where a French fry is supersized and transformed into a Tater Log. This is a piece of the American fabric that needs to be experienced. 

Al Hebert

Al Hebert

Al Hebert is the Gas Station Gourmet, showcasing America’s hidden culinary treasures. Find him at

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