Helen Area Businesses

The kinds of businesses in the Helen area run a very broad gamut of types, from the highly touristy gift shops to chocolate factories to vintage general stores, to name a few. We are searching for as many of these as we can feature on this site, because a common question we get is, “What is there to do in Helen?” Well, just covering all the tourist shops, factories, wineries, antique outlets, and a plethora of other places to spend your vacation money would keep you busy for a long time! We hope to cover as many of these as possible, but the sheer volume of them will make an exhaustive video and photo tour of them all practically impossible. Again, we’re mostly avoiding the downtown Helen scene, though a few there are unique enough that we’ll surely cover them. But the ones along Main Street, like the obvious restaurants there, are impossible to miss if you spend any time walking around downtown. We’ll concentrate on unique and historic businesses that you might not encounter from a casual trip to Helen. I hope you use this resource and that it heightens your enjoyment of the area tremendously!

Mark of the Potter

Established in 1969, one gets the feeling it is much older on entering this establishment. Here one can see the potter at work on weekends, tending his turning wheel and shaping clay into the infinite shapes visible all around the shop. For a genuine handcrafted article from the northern Georgia mountains, it’s hard to beat the items available in this establishment. The video tour that accompanies this article says much more than simple words can express. Out back, some of the largest trout in Georgia lounge beneath a man-made waterfall on the Soche River that is part of an old millpond, used in the past to back up water to provide power to grind grain, mainly corn. This waterfall keeps the water well oxygenated, and this provides the needed environment for the huge trout. One can feed them by purchasing a handful of food from the vending machines nearby. One can also purchase a license to fish here, if one is so inclined, but such activity is severely limited. This is one of the closest businesses to my cabins, and is easily reached by following Highway 356 (turn left as you exit Tanglewood), and travel five miles or so until you dead end into Highway 197. Turn right and stay on this highway for another five miles or so (don’t be sucked into taking Highway 255 a mile or two along, because it’s easy to do). The Mark of the Potter is easily found on the left, on the bank of the river.

Old Sautee Store

This icon of Helen area businesses dates back to its opening in 1872, and it has operated continuously since then, making it White County’s oldest continually-operating business. The building that houses the store literally defines the word “rustic.” To reach the store from the cabin, go back through Helen and take a left at the Indian mound on Highway 17. A couple of miles along, take Highway 255 north by turning left. The store is on the left at a crossroads a few miles up this highway. Once you ascend the ancient steps, you have a feeling of going back in time as you step into the antique section of the store, where the floor is covered with numerous antique machines and “gizmos,” some of unknown utility. The shelves behind the ancient counter are lined with an infinite varietyof medications and elixirs, none of it for sale because it isn’t made anymore and can’t be replaced. In the main part of the store, more conventional but still fairly unusual and area-specific items are for sale, with helpful store employees ready to assist you with any questions you might have. The wares available range from tourist cups and glasses to a variety of clothing. Don’t miss this ancient business while you’re in the Helen area.

Betty's Country Store

Of the local Helen area businesses, this establishment gets consistent 5-star reviews, and is small enough that one can find what they’re seeking, large enough to have most anything you want, and close enough to the cabins that one can just drop in most any time to shop. The store was operated as Bennett’s Grocery for many years, but in 1973 Betty and George Fain purchased the business, changed the name, and their success story is history. Located on the north side of town, after one passes through most of the tourism stores and shops, one end of the building reaches Main Street but the entrance actually faces Yonah Street. One will find the store almost immediately on the right almost immediately after entering Helen from the cabins on the north. The store has almost anything one could need, and the prices are not unreasonable at all, especially considering it is located in a tourist town. A very adequate parking lot for the store is just across Yonah Street. They also carry many items of local homemade and specialty items that are not found in conventional grocery stores. You can look hard in Helen for a place to shop for groceries, but so far this is the only game in town, and it’s a good one.

Habersham Winery and Nocoochee Village Antique Mall Video Tour

Nora Mills

This special place is ranked very highly on the list of “Things to See and Do” among the Helen area businesses. The mill sits on the bank of the tumbling Chattahoochee River just south of Helen on Highway 75, across the highway from the Habersham Winery and Nacoochee Antique Mall. Established in 1876, the store still stone-grinds grain (mainly corn, but other grains as well). The miller will gladly explain all aspects of stone-grinding grain, and how the expression “keeping your nose to the grindstone” came to be. Most of the grinding takes place on weekends when the most tourists are about. We bought corn meal, and the cornbread it makes is truly exceptional, like I ate when I was a child. Surprisingly, one can also get real Mexican vanilla there, a pleasant surprise of which I quickly took advantage. The store also features grits of various consistencies, multi-grain meal, a multitude of local jams, jellies, and preserves, as well as the usual tourist fare. Out back, and completely closed to fishing, is one of the largest schools of huge trout in the State—rivaled only by the same kind of fish found at Mark of the Potter. Be sure to feed them and watch a real frenzy take place. Also be sure to purchase some of their stone-ground production, but check the date on it and make sure it’s fresh. My sister-in-law found weevils in her corn meal, which turned out to be over a year old, a rare occurrence here. The problem was quickly and efficiently solved by a simple phone call, and a fresh batch was on its way to her.

'Spirits' of Helen

It’s simply amazing how many wineries there are in the Helen and surrounding areas. Our favorite is Three Sisters Winery, which also is the oldest and in our opinion, the one that produces the best wine. We bought a case there, in fact. They offer tasting for a small fee, which is pretty typical. Habersham Winery is based in Helen, and is very nearby, at the southern end of Helen, and they offer free tasting at least some of the time. Wine tours of all the wineries, or at least most of them, are available from a number of providers, the most visible of them being Alpine Taxi and Wine Tours (706-969-5311, http://www.helenga.org/attraction/alpine-taxi-wine-tours). This company offers local and long distance taxi service as well, and even airport pickup and return by prior arrangement. Take a wine tour of the Georgia wine country, and you’ll be amazed at the number, variety, beauty, and quality the State is producing. It’s a part of the Helen experience that you shouldn’t miss, even if you only occasionally enjoy a spot of wine!

Places to visit in nearby Lumpkin County

Canvas & Cork

Headquarters of Cavender Creek Winery

Inside Three Sisters for wine tasting

Three Sisters wine tasting

Places to visit in nearby Lumpkin County

Three Sisters - Our favorite winery!

Z. Brown Distillery - A true mountain distillery, making award-winning hard liquor.  Don't drink too much!

Z. Brown's label.  They produce an amazing variety of liquors.

Other Area Businesses

Firewood is big business in Helen.  Most all our winter guests stop in a place like this to have a wood fire.

Getting ready for the winter firewood rush.

Many local businesses sell local mountain goods - even moonshine!!

Fred's Famous Peanuts near beginning of Hwy 356

Heidi Motel in downtown Helen

Other Areas of Interest

Helen Area Activities

Click here to see all of the Helen area activities.

Helen Area Attractions

Click here to see all of the Helen area attractions.

Helen Area Restaurants

Click here to see all of the Helen area restaurants.

Helen Area Waterfalls

Click here to see all of the Helen area waterfalls.