September 9, 2022
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– Recently, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, recognized The Hitching Post & Old Country Store of Aurora, Kentucky as the Senate Small Business of the Week.

Dr. Paul entered the following into the Congressional Record:

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, as Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, each week I recognize an outstanding Kentucky small business that exemplifies the American entrepreneurial spirit. This week, it is my privilege to recognize The Hitching Post & Old Country Store of Aurora, Kentucky as the Senate Small Business of the Week. 

For generations, Land Between the Lakes has been one of the premier travel destinations in Western Kentucky. The gorgeous strip of land nestled between lakes Barkley and Kentucky contains breathtaking nature scenes, a plethora of outdoor activities, and numerous local businesses that visitors travel from far and wide to enjoy. A local favorite among those many businesses is The Hitching Post and Old Country Store. Located on a four and a half acre property on the western side of Kentucky Lake, The Hitching Post and Old Country Store first opened their doors to customers in 1941. The structures themselves are over 200 years old, but starting with the Perryman family in 1941, three families of stewards have maintained these stores in all their historic glory. Today, the stores are owned by Su Festen and her husband Tom Trenkle, who ventured south from Illinois to buy the property in 2008. In the years since, Su will tell you that she has grown a southern heart, which is more than evident in the warm hospitality she shows to all who dawn her doors.

Though The Hitching Post and the Old Country Store needed some notable maintenance when it came into Tom and Su’s hands, they both decided to maintain the old fashioned nature to the interior of the stores. Su was inspired to perpetuate the historic feeling of the of the property on her first day on the job as one of the very first patrons to come in was a fourth-generation customer with an abundance of love for these two stores. From then on, Su and her husband ensured that the Hitching Post and Old Country Store would be a place where everyone from out of town travelers to generational customers and locals could come to reminisce, remember, and enjoy the simpler things that only a small-town small business could provide.

When travelers traverse the beautiful land between lakes Barkley and Kentucky, they are confronted with the abounding beauty of the landscape surrounding them. Given this gorgeous scenery, it would be easy to overlook the charming shops around them. This is not the case for patrons of the Hitching Post and its neighboring Old Country Store. Customers are struck by the old-fashioned interior which harkens back to memories from a simpler time. From the stacks of local fruit preserves and canned country favorites to spiced apple cider, customers are reminded of a time when local produce was the all that was available—before the days of instant gratification fostered by online shopping and rapid delivery.

Not only are the two stores brimming over with charm, the two provide a wide variety of products to satisfy every traveler. If you are looking for something sweet to snack on for the trip home, you will find a delightful selection of homemade fudge and crates filled to the brim with saltwater taffy and old-fashioned candy. However, there is one offering that sticks out above all the others. As soon as you enter the Old Country Store, your eyes are immediately drawn to the towering wall of old-fashioned glass bottled sodas that line the back wall of the store. With over 200 different flavors offered, ranging from classic root beers to seasonal soda recipes, it is nearly impossible to choose what unique sodas to try, which is one of the many reasons why customers often return to The Hitching Post and Old Country Store year after year. To brighten up the weekends of their customers, Su and Tom created their weekly All-American Soda Showdown. From May to September, the most indecisive or adventurous customer can come in Sunday afternoons to sample both new and old flavors of soda the Old Country Store has to offer. 

However, both the Hitching Post and Old Country Stores have more than just sweet treats for the car ride home. Customers can also find a collection of retro toys and trinkets that introduce new generations to the beloved pastimes of their parents and grandparents. Family of some of the previous owners of the stores were avid collectors of unique items and oddities. Customers are encouraged to peruse their treasure trove of antiques and vintage novelties great for giving as gifts or keeping for home décor. One notable item on display is a moonshine still designed by Casey Jones, a famous Prohibition-era moonshiner whose brew was enjoyed by notable mob-boss Al Capone. Even upon exiting the stores visitors will encounter an array of impressive chainsaw carvings of forest creatures and mythical characters hand-crafted by talented local artisans. 

There is something about family vacations that is uniquely American. The places that families travel for both relaxation and recreation hold a special place in the hearts of those who visit them. All across the country are areas like Land Between the Lakes whose beauty is enjoyed by generations of families who bring their children and grandchildren to relish in the wonder they themselves appreciated as children. Part of this landscape are small businesses like The Hitching Post and Old Country Store that bravely confront the onward march of time. Though their original customers have aged over the 81 years that they have been open, the stores themselves remain ageless, as they look just like they did since that first year of operation in 1941. For decades these stores have been serving local Kentuckians and travelers alike, and it is clear that they will be cherished for generations to come. Congratulations to Tom Trenkle and Su Festen along with the entire team at The Hitching Post & Old Country Store. I look forward to seeing your continued growth and success in Kentucky. 

As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Paul continues the tradition of honoring America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship oversees proposed legislation on matters relating to the Small Business Administration and investigates all problems relating to America’s small businesses.