When Dahlonega's General Store, located on the Historic Public Square in downtown Dahlonega, opened in 1987, coffee was a nickel. As a convenience, proprietor John Stone chose "the honor system" as his method of distribution and encouraged customers -- on trust -- to just put five cents in a big ol' 5-gallon glass jug -- and any denomination would do: a nickel or five pennies. You choose.

Somehow, in the Dahlonega General Store, time has managed to stand still since 1987. Which is the feeling you get when you enter the store -- creaky pine floors, old fashioned candy, old fashioned lettering on the sign. And over in the corner, just past the lemon, horehound and anise hard candy in the old-timey packages, is the nickel coffee.

Nothing has changed.

Except now there are five 5-gallon jugs full to the brim with coins and cash, including a lot of nickels and a lot of pennies, some dollar bills, and a few oddball 2-dollar bills. But the sign is the same -- 5-cent coffee -- and those who know say the coffee is still just as good as it once was, made fresh every day.

Nickel Coffee General Store4

Holly Brooks, who has worked in the store for 17 years, says customers often comment about the coffee, asking if the  price is a joke. "What's the catch?" is a common question. No catch, she says, and as far as she knows there's never been discussion about changing the price.

Some things are just better left alone. 

The most common question is how much money is in each jug. Holly says she has no idea -- they've never been emptied, as far as she knows. They just add more 5-gallon jugs to the old-timey table, which has gotten to be somewhat of a challenge. 5-gallon jugs have gone the way of most things -- plastic now instead of glass -- which is one reason staff and management at the Dahlonega General Store, including current owner Jay Stone, are always on the prowl for glass jugs at antique stores and flea markets.

It's all part of the ambiance, the flavor, the appeal, and the culture that comes with being a retail centerpiece in a town known for its genuine-ness and authenticity.