As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the chica and I spent the first two weeks of August driving all the way to Kentucky for the World's Longest Yard Sale, taking Highway 127 from Frankfort down to Chattanooga. The plan was then to take I-24 to Nashville for the night, but a fortuitous detour came before us in the form of a massive billboard: the Lodge Cast Iron factory store, just off the freeway in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, the home base for the country's premier maker of cast iron cookware.
I am not a cook, but am a beneficiary of cast iron cookware, whether it was the massive comal that has served my family for decades, or the wonderful home meals the chica cooks. I would've never swung by the Lodge Cast Iron store--I didn't even know who they were until the chica nearly became apoplectic with excitement and insisted we visit. They're the nation's oldest-continuing family maker of cookware , having been around since 1896. Check in on a piece of Americana cookery? I'm there.
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I did know how expensive Lodge products are, but also knew the quality of their stuff. The store is just a low-slung building in the middle of beautiful nothing, just down the street from Lodge's headquarters, run by a friendly family that stocks every conceivable cast iron cooking product imaginable, at ridiculously cheap prices. And since this is the South, they also stock local preserves, jellies, and jams of every make. But most remarkable was the room toward the back, where they held products discounted due to customers returning it, small blemishes, or other issues that don't make the products immaculate.
"Cheap" does not begin to describe what bargains await you. Skillets, grills, pans, even woks of all sizes were discounted for 60, 70, even 80 percent. Blemishes were negligible, if I could even find them. For a little over $100, we came back with about 10 products, a bounty that the chica says would've cost us at least $300 at other stores, if not more and if they even stock Lodge. And because we spent $100, we received a 10 percent discount for our next visit, which will happen next August, inshallah.
The Lodge store is far, far away from our golden shores, for sure. But if fate ever calls you to take the 24 through Tennessee, a visit here is mandatory. Stock up on cast iron cookware for the rest of your life, or buy some and sell it for a mighty profit. As for us? Oh, how bacon tastes good off a weathered Lodge cast iron pan...
The Lodge Cast Iron Factory Store, 503 S. Cedar Ave., South Pittsburg, Tennessee, (423) 837-5919; www.lodgemfg.com.