Shoppers Appreciate Nostalgia of Old-time Stores
Aug 31, 2016 10:30AM
By Jill Cueni Cohen
Shopping can be a trip....back in time. Western Pennsylvania is full of places that remind shoppers of the days when computers didn't exist, food was stored in an ‘ice box,’ and telephones were tethered to the wall. Here's a look at a few local stores that have survived the turn of the century to become a treasured tradition for generations of loyal customers.
Cruising the bins of caramel creams, fireballs, jawbreakers, satellite saucers, wax bottles, pixie stix and candy cigarettes in Baldinger's Market in Zelienople brings back sweet memories for western Pennsylvanians of every age.
Grace McClelland, 81, said she remembers shopping in the 75-year-old store's original location as far back as 1948, and she's been working in the new location since it opened in 2008. "My dad would take us to buy candy there once every few months. I mostly remember the fly stickers, because they were covered in dead flies," McClelland recalled, noting that back then, there wasn’t air-conditioning, and chocolate wasn’t sold in the summer.
"It was an old wooden clapboard store,” she added. “In the winter, they closed it if it snowed a lot, because they didn't have a snow plow. When it was really hot in the summer, they would shut it down."
The flies are gone, but that kid-in-a-candy-shop attitude still rules at Baldinger's, where they carry pretty much any kind of candy you can think of—including sugar-coated crickets, ants, worms and scorpions.
"I like candy with bugs in it," said satisfied customer 11-year-old Tiffani Rodarte of Avonworth.
And she's not the only one. A fourth-generation customer of Baldinger's, Aidyn Mead, 8, of Evans City was thrilled to be able to purchase a packet of sour cream and onion crickets while his parents looked on in amusement. "I'm definitely going to eat these," he promised.
Shopping at Baldinger's is nostalgic for Todd Degenhardt, 40, of Shaler. "I remember coming in here as a kid and buying Pop Rocks, Nerds, and I always loved the satellite saucers," he said. And it's not just the candy; the store contains original equipment like the old cash register that only goes up to $9.99, an original telephone that Alexander Graham Bell would have used, and an old scale that still works like a charm.
Conveniently located in the middle of Beaver's shopping district on 3rd Street (since the days when they had poles out front to tether horses), Beaver Supermarket is the last independently owned supermarket in Beaver County. According to owner Mark Ondrusek, 55, of Chippewa, the Beaver Supermarket is an essential part of commerce.
"Having a supermarket in downtown is important. I bring up to 10,000 people a week into Beaver, and they go shopping in other stores on 3rd Street; we all benefit each other," he said. "People have to eat no matter what. If you don't have a supermarket downtown, they go somewhere else."
The supermarket boasts the inventory of larger grocery stores in a smaller, friendlier atmosphere where everyone knows the managers by name. "We provide a level of service that you can't get anywhere else," said Ondrusek, noting that the store's oldest customers are encouraged to take the shopping carts to their nearby apartments, and the staff picks them up every week.
"Half of these people in town worked in the store at one time, so they know its history and tell me where the horse posts used to be and that my office was the restroom at one time. They point out all the old stuff that's here; we even still have some original shelving," Ondrusek said, noting that since he bought the business in 1989, the entire store has been remodeled. "Even the original roof panels were purchased from a company in California that makes replica antique panels."
Known for their specialty meats, Beaver Supermarket is the place to find hard-to-get items. "If we don't have it, we will make every effort to find it for you," said Ondrusek.
St. Barnabas' Beautiful Buys and General Store
Locals are lucky to have two nonprofit stores in Valencia, where they can fulfill daily needs and refurbish household furniture in style. According to store manager Deb Cochran, Beautiful Buys (421 Rt. 228) is a dream-come-true for the St. Barnabas community.
"Since we deal in all types of senior living, over the years people have donated everything they owned to St. Barnabas, so three years ago we opened a resale shop," she said, noting that the shop carries gently used name-brand upscale furniture, home decor, clothing and housewares. "It's great for those on a budget who want to redo their homes."
The newer General Store at 68 Dambaugh Avenue opened last year and sells food and household items, as well as pre-owned clothing, furniture and books. "It's like the corner store you grew up with," said Cochran.
Volunteers are always welcome, as are donations. Both stores benefit the St. Barnabas Free Care Fund.