The Marilla Country Store... You won’t be able to walk out empty-handed
Step back in time:
The store was founded by Harrison Foster and Charles Walker as H.T. Foster & Co. The business was then purchased by the Monchow family and became known as the Monchow’s General Store. It was operated by two generations of the Monchow family for a total of 107 years.
In 1979, the store was purchased by Jim and Barbara Gingerich who at the time were looking for something to invest in and when the opportunity to by the store was available they took it.
In 2000, Jim and Barbara sold the business to their daughter, Sandy, and son-in-law, Paul Grunzweig, who transformed the store into a country gift store. Jim and Barbara continue to remain a part of the business helping out as much as they can.
In fact, Jim has an extensive knowledge of the store’s history as he spoke of a time when an attempted robbery took place at the store in 1917. Three men were discovered trying to blow the safe in the general store, which resulted in a gun battle and one of the robbers wounded. The men were never caught and the safe still remains in the store today.
The museum has the original article published by the Alden Advertiser, as well as old advertising posters and newspaper ads.
“The majority of the stuff here are items that were in the store when my wife and I bought the store,” said Jim. “All of these counters and the merchandise back behind the counters were down stairs. Also, some of the items have been donated by local people in the town.”
The museum is filled with so many unique items and it’s amazing to see. Some of the items include a hand operated vacuum cleaner, an old fashioned milk cooler for a farm, camera and typewriter, as well as a pair of cowboy boots with wood pegs to hold the soles on, which at that time had a price tag of $2.50.
“We know the boots are at least 130 to 140 years old,” said Jim. “We could never track it down to the exact time frame. There are a lot old items here that you don’t see anymore and when we bought the store right off the bat, we decided we were going to set aside an area with this stuff to display so people could see what it was 75 to 100 years ago.”
Also, a handmade elevator used for hoisting merchandise to the second floor is a special feature in the museum.
What the store is today
Today, the store still maintains the original gas lights and wood floors and customers can enjoy gift shopping, bulk foods and homemade candy, and a wonderful welcoming atmosphere.
“This store has become a destination for people who are looking for something different,” Jim said.
The Marilla Country Store General Manager, Stephanie Baiocco, said the second floor of the store is filled with home décor and gifts and every season brings new items.
“We switch over with the seasons,” said Baiocco. “Right now, the majority is all Christmas and then come spring it will be Easter, and summer is picnic and Fourth of July, and our biggest season is fall with Halloween being second to Christmas as far as the merchandise we have.”
With different themed rooms upstairs, customers can walk through a candle room packed with a variety of candle lines; there is also a linen department; a German area offering pyramids, smokers, and arches; a children’s room crammed with toys; polish pottery; a ladies room packed with accessories, purses, and scarves; and an outdoor room offering hunting, fishing, and sporting products.
Baiocco mentioned they try to offer one of kind items and include products in the store that are handmade in the USA.
Another room called “The Loft” is filled with home furnishings such as curtains and pieces of furniture brought in from Lancaster, Pa., from the Amish country.
Downstairs is where the store’s bulk food and homemade candy is located, as well as a selection of jewelry, baking supplies, and a deli.
“So, you can do your Christmas shopping, your baking, and entertainment shopping all under one roof,” remarked Baiocco. “The store is endless.”
The Marilla Country Store, located at 1673 Two Rod Road, in Marilla, is opened from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To contact the store, call 655-1031 or visit www.marillacountrystore.com for more information.
The store will be hosting an event called Taste of the Holidays beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Customers can receive free samples of treats from the store’s fresh bulk food assortments such as dips and cheeses.