By Carol Vaughn —
Dixieland, a popular gas station, convenience store and gift shop just south of the Maryland-Virginia state line, looks a bit different these days.
The large sign outside, which usually displays the store’s name along with a painted Confederate battle flag, as of Monday is covered by a temporary banner that reads “God Bless America.”
The store’s motto, “The South Starts Here,” can be seen below the red, white, and blue banner.
A post on the store’s Facebook page quotes a portion from the Declaration of Independence and goes on to say that “one day is not sufficient to celebrate” the nation’s 224th birthday… “and 2020 has already been a year to remember!”
Patrice Pikulsky, who along with J. R. Pikulsky owns and operates the store, said the God Bless America banner will remain on display at least through the end of the year.
The banner and accompanying promotion is in part to thank essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Pikulsky.
“We feel like the country has been through a lot recently,” she said, adding, “We have been able to be open; we’ve had some great essential workers through all the months of the pandemic who have kept things up and going.”
The store in February started an essential workers club, which now has more than 300 members.
“What we do is we give them free stuff, free food — just keeping them going and thanking them for everything that they have been doing,” Pikulsky said.
The store’s regular customers include employees from essential businesses in the area, including Tyson Foods, Walmart, doctors’ offices, and car dealerships, among others.
“Then it dawned on us, the whole country has been through a lot,” so the owners decided to initiate the God Bless America promotion, she said.
Patriotism is important to Pikulsky, who teared up as she noted she has two children serving in the military, one at Fort Bragg and one in Afghanistan.
The store — which in addition to gasoline and food sells everything from fireworks and flags to T-shirts and gift items — is challenging travelers and locals to take a photograph with the sign and send it by direct message to be posted on the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/dixieland.newchurch
The person who submits the photograph that receives the most “likes” on the page between now and Sept. 11, Patriot Day, will win $1,000, Pikulsky said.
“It’s just our way of giving back to the community that has supported us. We have been here for 31 years and we just love it here,” she said.
The banner’s display is not connected to recent controversy around the United States about displaying the Confederate flag, according to Pikulsky.
“That’s not what this is about. This is about giving back to the community, just thanking all of the salt-of-the-earth, hardworking folks,” she said, adding, “…For right now, we feel it’s really important to recognize the sacrifices that everybody has been making.”