The Country Store
A Replica of the Boalsburg Country Store
Today, most people do their grocery shopping in supermarkets such as Wal-Mart, Giant or Wegmans, where one takes a basket or shopping cart, walks along long aisles and serves themselves from a large variety of items choosing the ones they want and the only clerk they may see is at the check-out counter or maybe there is no direct contact with another person if self-checkout is used. In times past, things were very different. Most every village had a country store where people bought the things that they needed that they didn’t make for themselves. The variety of items may be great, but the selection was often very limited. Items were usually on shelves behind counters and a clerk would get them, wrap the package and collect payment. Usually the store was a large room that was part of the house in which the owners lived and, in the days before central heating, had a large pot-bellied stove around which customers gather to discuss topics of interest. Politics, hunting fishing stories and general gossip were the usual fare and were the origin of many “cracker-barrel tales.” It was not unusual for the store to also be the post office. A corner of the store would be sectioned off for the collection and distribution of mail, there may have been individual mail slots or the clerk (usually the owner) would hand it to you.
The country store items displayed at the Boalsburg Heritage Museum have been donated by Ken and Margaret Tennis of Boalsburg and were from the store operated by Ken’s Aunt and Uncle William and Helen Riley Tennis at 137 West Main Street in Boalsburg from about 1926 until after World War II. They sold general merchandise, meat, grocery and furniture in the store and in the rear they had a feed mill where grain was ground. Ken and Margaret Tennis stored the items when the building was used for other purposes and donated them to the Museum after it was founded.
The building itself where the store was located has an interesting history. Augustus Wolf purchased the land in 1811 on which he constructed a log cabin that exists today but has been covered with wood sheathing. It served as a tavern and inn serving many cattle drivers. In 1894, Sammey Bell, a tinsmith sold his wares there and in 1915, John F Zackerman had his undertaking and furniture business there.