For decades, I’ve been cruising State Route 83 in a hurry to visit my hometown. Every time, I slow down at the rural corner of Chatham Road and Avon Lake Road in Medina, Ohio (Chatham Township) to see the cool-looking old building with painted lettering across the weathered white wood façade: CHATHAM GENERAL STORE EST. 1854, followed by GOOSE & GANDER ICE CREAM PARLOR.
This time, I had time to spare so I pulled into the oversized gravel parking lot. ‘Oh, what story does this place have to tell,’ I wondered as I reached for my camera. As I took in the postcard view of Yesteryear, a couple of signs on the porch came into focus: “Bait” and “Maple Syrup.” Yep, it’s an authentic general store.
The building dates to 1834. And ever since 1854, it’s been a general store. Its neighbors used to be a blacksmith shop, tin shop, harness shop, millinery shop, tailor, and shoe repair store. But that was nearly 200 years ago just after the Chatham Oil Boom. My, how times have changed, but not this store.
I stepped inside and onto the worn wood floor I would soon learn is original and asked the lady at the counter, “Is this place yours?”
She smiled a welcome to my place kinda smile and said, “My husband Bill and I bought it a year ago at auction. My name is Beverly Scandlon.”
Bill used to frequent the store when he was a kid in the 1980s. He’d ride his bike up to get ice cream and play Pac-Man in the back of the place.
A vintage cash register caught my eye. It had a fancy design stamped into the brass that looked like it weighed over 100 pounds. Beverly said it was the first piece she and Bill purchased to begin the restoration of the original store. The cash register is one of the original National Cash Registers. They bought it from a great-great-granddaughter of a neighboring shoe keeper who used it back in 1869.
The Scandlons have since brought back an updated inventory, restoring the haberdashery with hats, wallets, coin purses, and handkerchiefs. The local goods room features honey from a nearby farm, soaps, kettle popcorn, and wheat and buckwheat pancake mix from a local mill. It also displays local artist works such as forged items candles, crafts, vintage signs, and Beverly’s own watercolor creations.
As the old sign out front promotes, the Scandlons also reopened the ice cream parlor. It serves Hershey’s Ice Cream in hand-dipped cones, sundaes, shakes, malts, and root beer or orange floats. Between the front counter and the old-time candy bins are metal stools standing high at a metal and wood-topped table for two.
Opposite the grocery aisle is a popular stop in the store that seems to offer anything and everything. Just follow the smell of fresh coffee, baked goods, and deli sandwiches (soup and chili, too). Whether it’s a bakery muffin with coffee, chicken salad on crescent, sub sandwiches on a deli roll, a “Hillbilly Hotdog,” or cupcakes to cream pie for dessert, Chatham General Store won’t disappoint. Hey, it’s where the locals go!
And being a place that offers a soup-to-nuts selection so-to-speak, a loop around the store will pass old cotton club wood crates, John Wayne and Bugs Bunny pictures, and other old Americana decor. There’s also a propane exchange, ice chest, lottery tickets, and ATM machine.
Beverly said in remembrance of her dad, she and Bill are expanding a section of the store called Grandpa’s Cabin. It’s a throwback offering fishing, hunting, and camping supplies.
“My Dad would have loved this store,” said Beverly, “It would remind him of the stores in West Virginia where he grew up.”
After I said my goodbye, Beverly shared that after a year of being the shopkeep of The Chatham General Store, she still enjoys hearing the creak of the original wood floors and the slam of the screen door on a summer day.
As the Scandlon’s forge into the future of their general store, they invite everyone to “Step into the past…”
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler. Your Tour Guide to Fun