"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Custer General Store (You Might be a Redneck if....)

Custer General Store - Open 125 Years

There's not much to Custer, the tiny town a few miles away from us. No gas station, no bank, no fast food joints. There's a post office, a tavern, an elementary school, and a general store. That's it. My kids go to the elementary school, and so we also often find ourselves in the Custer general store. I absolutely LOVE this place. Occupying an old two-story wooden building with living quarters on the second floor, the Custer store has been open continuously for 125 years.

I'm sure that the place has gone through many incarnations in that time - these days they don't sell a huge amount of actual staple goods. It's more like a very well stocked convenience store housed in a pioneer setting. You can get a loaf of bread, a bag of flour, a dozen eggs (local eggs, from nearby backyard chicken farmers, if you wish), and some canned goods and of course milk and butter. There's always a small selection of basic produce, usually bananas and potatoes and onions and tomatoes. You can get a bar of soap or a roll of thread. But you couldn't do your weekly grocery shopping there.

On the other hand, they have a fantastic collection of interesting stuff - there's a wall of used books, which aren't even for sale, as I found out when I tried to buy a couple. It's take-one-leave-one. Isn't that a great idea? There's a rack of weird old fashioned greeting cards and postcards - the kind with pictures of a ludicrously enlarged cabbage on a hay wagon, and a caption something like "greetings from Enumclaw!" or some such unheard-of place scores of miles away. They sell T-shirts that say "You might be from Custer if..." followed by a series of Jeff Foxworthy one liners. "...If you've ever driven your tractor down to Custer store for a sixpack!" As a matter of fact, I once saw a young man (Mexican, of course) ride his horse up to the store and actually tie it to the honest-to-God hitching post.

Coyote Hides Hanging Next to the ATM Machine

Being right next to the elementary school, there is a wide selection of schoolkid-related items: the cold case is full of items for throwing together a quick brown bag lunch, such as string cheese and juiceboxes. There is a whole lot of bubblegum, candy designed to appeal to the third-grade set, and cool, cheap toys like glow-bracelets and balsa wood gliders.

And then they have the "garage sale" room - filled with the odds and ends that tend to collect over a 125 year history: wooden spools, planters, tools that no-one knows the exact use of, old scales, glass weights and sinkers, antique tin signs, and unassorted junk of all descriptions. I bought a whole set of nine planter boxes made out of old wooden house siding for $3 apiece, and now they are in my greenhouse growing spinach and swiss chard.

One of Many Pieces of Antique Equipment

If you have to go to the bathroom, you will be directed through a back door and into the storeroom, which is full of even more fascinating old mathoms. The particular, idiosyncratic history of the place is demonstrated in such items as a cork-board with hundreds of old metal bottlecaps driven into it. I'm sure some elderly librarian could have a fine time examining that board for a study of the brands of beer available and popular through the decades in small town Western Washington.

As if all this weren't enough, the Custer store also serves a very respectable espresso, a damn good sandwich or bowl of soup, and has an ice cream counter with a selection of flavors from the local dairy. In fact, during the summer months, children can get a free ice cream cone by bringing in a dozen nightcrawlers.

Oh yeah, of course they also sell bait!


Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog and your honest writing. I live in Bham so nice to read about local flavor. Will have to visit the Custer store.
Thanks - KO

Olive said...

Love it !!!!

WeekendFarmer said...

I am so tempted now to visit the store!!!!

Wierd question...how much are those hides? Do they look similar to a fox hide? I have a dear friend who likes to collect hides..dont know why she likes them. I was thinking maybe I could buy one for her from there. Let me know if you see the price tag when you go there next time.

Happy Spring!

Tonya said...

I enjoy your blog and your honest writing. I live in Bham so nice to read about local flavor. Will have to visit the Custer store. Thanks - KO