The formation of the antique country store began soon after the American Civil War, people started moving around and settling their own small communities all over the country. Most of these settlements were far away from the big cities. So each small town needed a doctors office, and maybe a dentist, a blacksmith, a veterinarian, and of course food and drinking establishments. But, also arose a need for people supplies. Small general stores sprang up everywhere. The store was a place that anybody could get just about anything they needed. They sold grain & horse medicine, thread & cookware, tobacco & coffee, stoves & boots, guns & ammo. Just about everything people needed to survive during that rugged time in history. And very often, it also served as the local post office, and a meeting place to exchange town gossip, and play a game of checkers. It truly was an important place.
Today it has become a passion for many people to try to restore and preserve those old stores. Or at least some of the pieces that made them special. Many of the floor counters, display cases, fixtures and shelving can still be located. And all the different things that sat on those shelves have become quite popular to collect. Baking soda containers, tobacco tins, shaving brushes, medicine bottles, food containers and everything needed for everyday small town life. All the advertising pieces that promoted the products were carefully crafted and designed to catch consumers eyes. Tins signs, porcelain signs, paper signs and counter top die cut ads that stood up or laid flat are fun to find and display. Everything from posters, to figures to coffee grinders can add so much fun and color to a game room or den or kitchen. Over the last few years dye cabinets, vet cabinets and especially spool cabinets have become extremely popular with beginning and advanced collectors. And there are so many things still out there that collectively made up the country store. Each one more colorful and creative than the next. Every item a piece of American history.
Each piece also had to be exciting. There was no TV to advertise the product. No radio or billboards. No flashy colored flyers in your mail everyday. Newspaper and magazines were few and far between. So they needed to get your attention by making their products more attractive than the one next to it. They also offered ornate and exotic display pieces to help the merchant sell their products. Most companies begged for valuable wall space to display posters and signs of all shapes and sizes to promote their lines and products. Each was more beautiful than the next. A far cry from today’s white generic boxes, blue light specials and plastic end cap displays. A look through an old country store is literally a trip through history and can provide valuable insight into the ways of the past as well as the needs, psychology, societal norms and marketing of past generations.
Special thanks to Harvey Leventhal of Elwood City Pennsylvania for the article