By Michelle Matthews
This is Alabama
It’s been a long time coming, but the new Conecuh Sausage gift shop is now open at the Interstate Highway 65 Exit 96 in Evergreen. Not only is it a convenient place for travelers to stop, offering clean bathrooms and sausage dogs to go, but it’s also a destination for anyone who loves the taste of the iconic sausage (pronounced Cuh-NECK-uh) that has been a beloved Alabama tradition since 1947.
The 7,000-square-foot gift shop had a soft opening in August, but the company plans to have a grand opening in late October. The former gift shop carried many of the same items, but they were squeezed into 800 square feet of space.
“It’s quite a big difference,” said John Sessions, the grandson of the company’s founder.
The gift shop is designed like a lodge, with a wide, wraparound porch and round tables and swiveling Adirondack chairs. Giant gas lamps flank the front doors. “We wanted it to look outdoorsy,” Sessions said.
Inside, there’s a huge assortment of T-shirts and souvenirs, but customers can also find Big Green Egg grills and refrigerated display cases with all the meats made by Conecuh Sausage. “We try to be a one-stop shop for people going to the beach,” Sessions said.
While you’re there, be sure to pick up a copy of Conecuh Sausage’s family recipes, which includes everything from red beans and rice to shrimp-and-sausage skewers to jambalaya and gumbo.
And while the gift shop is open and fully operational, there’s more to come before the grand opening, including items like soap and spices in the gift shop, benches and an awning in the dog park (yes, there’s a fenced-in area for the pups) and a life-sized pig in the parking lot that will serve as the backdrop for photo ops.
Sessions is proud of the new building and its accessibility to interstate traffic. “If not for people in Alabama, we wouldn’t be where we’re at,” he said.
Here are nine things you won’t want to miss when you visit:
1. Sausage dogs with toppings. In one corner of the store, customers can make their own sausage dogs (choose from three types of Conecuh sausage) or a traditional hot dog made with Conecuh’s own Little Chief premium franks. Toppings include sauerkraut, onions, sweet relish, chopped tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, cheese sauce and chili. Grab a bag of chips and a drink, and you’ve got an inexpensive and delicious meal.
2. The porch. The wide and well-appointed porch is the perfect place to sit and eat lunch, dinner or a snack to break up your trip. Ceiling fans and poly outdoor furniture by Kanyon make it a comfy spot to watch people come and go.
3. Conecuh swag. Who can resist a colorful Conecuh Sausage T-shirt, hoodie or hat? You’ll find this and more, in a variety of sizes, on a display wall. There are also sturdy Sarge tumblers, keychains and other items to help show your love of Conecuh. You probably need a Conecuh apron for when you grill sausage at home.
4. Syrups. Exclusive to the gift shop, Conecuh offers an extensive line of syrups – including some that are sugar-free or no-sugar-added – plus pancake mix.
5. Seafood boil. Conecuh sausage isn’t just for breakfast. It’s the perfect accompaniment to, say, shrimp and crawfish – which is why the company offers its own seafood boil spice mix. The only other place you’ll find it is in some grocery stores in Mobile.
. Insulated bags and ice chests. You’re going to need a way to take home your purchases. After all, the cracked black pepper sausage is hard to find, and you can buy a case of it, or any of the other five Conecuh sausage flavors, here.
7. Smoked turkeys and hams. While sausage is its specialty, Conecuh also offers smoked turkeys and hams, franks, bacon, pork chops and bone-in ribeye steaks to take home.
8. The dog park. If your dogs are traveling with you, you’ll be happy to know there’s a fenced area overlooking a scenic pond where they can run around and burn off some energy. Bags are provided so you can help keep this area clean and neat.
9. And finally, check out the sparkling restrooms. You can’t help being impressed with the gift shop’s bright, shiny restrooms. “We wanted to have the cleanest bathrooms on I-65,” Sessions said.
The gift shop is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Sunday. Masks are required for entrance. For more information, call 800-726-0507.