Remembering the Old General Stores…

During the mid to late nineteenth century, general stores were generally the first business establishments built in a town. They were the gathering places for townspeople and farmers where they could buy items like hardware, food items in bulk, clothing items, and seed for planting.

The main floor of a general store was used to display retail merchandise, and storeowners used every available nook and cranny to maximize storage. Shelves rose to the ceiling to organize the largest amount and variety of items, while excess or specialty items tended to be stacked on the floor, on counters, upturned boxes, barrels, bins, or situated on ceiling hooks.  Items like coffee, tea, spices, rice, beans, flour, sugar, salt, cornmeal, crackers, molasses, kerosene, and others in bulk quantities were purchased by storeowners, weighed on large scales, and measured into boxes, crockery containers and bags to sell in desired quantities to customers. Pre-packaged or canned items like peaches, sardines, and oysters were popular in general stores. Larger items such as farm equipment, tools, bathtubs, cook stoves, and sewing machines were special ordered for customers. 

The General Store often had space for a post office and served as a local place for townspeople and farmers to gather around a potbelly stove, checkerboards, and pickle barrels where people loved to visit and catch up on the latest news.  A large inventory of goods was always kept on hand, with deliveries coming in by horse-drawn wagon and later also by train, on a regular basis, mainly in bulk packages. If a storeowner had time, he would deliver goods to farmers and others, but most people would come to town regularly with horse and wagon to take their purchases home.


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