Treasures of Tarboro at Off the Main

By Jennifer Grant

Tucked away on a side street of unassuming downtown Tarboro stands a beige Victorian style home. If not for a sign in the front yard, the average passerby would just chalk it up as another sweet, southern home and not give it a second thought.


That passerby would be missing out on the hidden treasures of Tarboro. Open the door to that Victorian, and you’ll step into Off the Main, a co-retailing boutique that rents out storefront space to local businesses. The name Off the Main refers to the store’s location off of Main Street, but to me it also references the unique offerings that the boutique brings to Tarboro. In this small town, there’s nothing else quite like it.


Walking from room to room of the house, I took in everything from shirts to fuzzy socks printed with Tarboro, NC to jewelry to toys. Brooke Phillips, the owner of Off the Main was kind enough to speak with me when I visited, and explained some of the thought process behind the items she sells. She told me she looks for distinctive products that have meaningful stories behind them. For instance, a single mom from Columbia, NC makes some of the children’s clothing she sells. Some of the proceeds from a few of the dainty jewelry pieces I admired go to a local animal shelter. I was drawn to purchase Thai Basil scented wax made by a small business owner. The smell reminded me of Mike and Ike’s candy.  


Phillips is passionate about what she does, and told me opening a boutique had always been her dream. She grew up in Tarboro, but left for several years to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Upon graduation, she knew she had to come back to her hometown to open a store. At the moment, Phillips works with ten vendors to stock the boutique. The connections she builds with these vendors and with Tarboro residents are at the heart of her business. As we spoke, the front door bell kept ringing, indicating another visitor had stopped by to view her new items. I found myself wishing I could be one of those regulars, just stopping by to chat and smell the candles.

An Afternoon in Tarboro

By Ciara Corcoran


The aftermath of Hurricane Matthew was present in Tarboro as we tried to drive into the town. Sections of Highway 64 were blocked due to flooding from the Tar River and the National Guard stood by the blocked sections, advising drivers to take detours through town. We followed the line of cars into downtown Tarboro with the cloudy weather accentuating the gloom that hung over the town.


The cloudy weather became cloudier until rain ushered us into a coffee shop. The Tarboro Coffee House sits at the corner of East Church Street and North Main Street in downtown Tarboro. Stepping into the shop, I was surrounded by the comforting smell of freshly brewed coffee and the buzz of families stopping by for hot chocolates or scoops of ice cream. I opted for some ice cream myself and ordered a scoop of the Hershey’s Cappuccino Crunch to satisfy both my coffee craving and need for something sweet.


Lauren, Abbey, and I chose a seat near the front of the store, overlooking the rain on Main Street. I flipped through the local paper, which brought the extend of the flooding into new light. Hurricane Matthew didn’t just close off a few streets; a number of homes near the river had been destroyed by the flooding. Tarboro hadn’t even been hit the hardest. Towns all along the Tar River suffered damages due to the flooding caused by the hurricane. Tarboro High School became a refuge for the residents of nearby Princeville and American Red Cross Shelters had been set up across the town. The hurricane had occurred almost two weeks prior, but the communities were still feeling the impacts. The Tar River Times reported the damages to be over $1 million dollars in order to repair the nearly 50 condemned homes and the destroyed roads along the river.


I finished my ice cream and looked out at the rain that now seemed to be only a drizzle. I could see flyers posted about fundraising for the families impacted by the hurricane. We hadn’t been nearly as affected back at Elon, 135 miles to the west. The few days of rain were an inconvenience at most.  We had nowhere near the damage that Tarboro was facing. After the coffee and ice cream, Lauren, Abbey, and I drove back to see the damage near the road closure. The National Guard didn’t seem too keen on us slowing down to survey the road, but we could still see places where the road had broken off and water still remained.


To continue on our journey, we had to drive on one section of road that was cracked in half across both lanes. We had passed this crack on the way into town, thinking it was almost chasm-like. Now, it didn’t seem like any more than a fracture in the road.

Tarboro Calvary Episcopal Churchyard

By: Dannie Cooper, 2013

On our way home, we stopped in Tarboro to visit the Tarboro Calvary Episcopal Church.  One of my travel mates had seen pictures of the cemetery online and wanted to explore it in person.  I didn’t have many expectations going to the church yard.  I figured it was another old church with parishioners buried on the grounds. 

My feelings changed as I walked around the grounds of the church.  The looming flora and fauna of all varieties made the yard feel more like a historic garden, with tombstones marking lives as moments in time, all part of a bigger picture.  I learned that Reverend Joseph Blount-Cheshire, the founder of the church in 1833, was not just a rector; he was also an acclaimed botanist. Many of the trees that he planted would not typically survive in North Carolina. By grafting foreign trees onto native plants, Blount-Cheshire created a unique garden for his beloved congregation. History was replete in the churchyard- certain family names reappeared over and over again, showing continuous lineages of parishioners.  Sculpted lambs sat atop small stones, marking the graves of children that passed too soon.  Confederate crosses marked the burial sites of Civil War soldiers.

Being among so many stories was overwhelming.

Some stories stood out more than others.  I stumbled across the grave of William Dorsey Pender, the youngest Confederate general of the Civil War who died in combat at 29 years of age. His grave was special, marked with cannon shells surrounding his above-ground coffin.  More touching were the twin graves of two young girls, marked with beds of white flowers; one had tried to save the other from drowning in a river, and neither had survived.  Reverend Janey Wilson told us all of these stories with a learned disconnect that comes from working next to a graveyard every day. The Reverend noted that, when doing funeral processions, they always pass the girls’ graves on the way into the churchyard.

Janey Wilson is the first female reverend of Tarboro Calvary Episcopal, and has dedicated herself to the maintenance of her congregation and the church, by any means necessary. She jokes, “The normal congregation doesn’t all come, but I have my Facebook congregation.”

I had not entered the churchyard with expectations, but I left feeling at peace.  And if I ever drive through Tarboro again, I’ll be sure to stop at Calvary Episcopal to visit the graves and to soak in the history and the serenity that emanates from the churchyard.

For more information on the Tarboro Calvary Episcopal Church, please visit