Rural town's residents hope general store keeps going
Sep. 05, 2018
STINESVILLE, Ind. (AP) — The two-story limestone building at the corner of Main and Market streets houses the Merchantile and the post office, an anchor in the town of Stinesville.
Local residents call the 1898 structure simply "The Store," as in: "I'm going down to the store to get a Coke and the mail." The shelves are sparsely stocked with necessary items such as paper towels and dish soap, Honey Buns and Gatorade, AA batteries and a limited selection of cigarettes, just the brands regular customers smoke.
This is the kind of establishment you don't see much anymore, decorated with laminated newspaper stories about the store from days past and letter jackets from the old Stinesville School. The school closed at the end of last school year, sending students miles away on buses.
The shock of losing the school lingers, and now, with the store's future uncertain — it's for sale — Stinesville sits at a crossroads as times change. This is how it's described in a tourist guide: "A post office with antique post office boxes that also doubles as a historical museum, with a small display showcasing the history and heritage of the Stinesville community."
The June 5 death of postmistress and longtime store owner Pam Bayne, a familiar face to anyone who ever stepped into the historic building, also has affected the store, the town and its 200 residents.
Bayne was, according to her obituary, "a friend to every person that walked through her door" at the general store. It's been a sad few months as the community adjusts to the absence of a woman who lived in the heart of Stinesville, on Main Street in sight of the store, for more than 40 years.
"Pam was always such a nice person to talk to," said Mark McDonald. He rode his new scooter to the store one recent morning, part of his daily routine. "I've lived here since 1982, except for a few years in Gosport."
He misses Bayne, who was 61 when she died. She did more than sell postage stamps, allowing a running tab for customers low on money and kind words "to friends and strangers alike, who never stayed strangers for long. She had a natural ability to see the good in the world and people around her, even when none was evident to others," her obit said.
The Stinesville Merchantile, with its unusual spelling on the sign above the entryway, is for sale because Tim Bayne isn't interested in going it alone without his wife of 41 years. They purchased the business in 1993.
So what will happen to the store, which in 1995 earned designation on the National Register of Historic Places? Things will stay much the same if the Baynes' niece, Brooklyn Navarre, has her way.
She hopes to buy the store on contract from her uncle, then figure out a way to keep it up and running. She envisions a café — there used to be one — and also the return of the intimate circle-of-music shows that were hosted inside the store a few years back.
But there are obstacles, big and expensive ones. The structure is in disrepair, and it will take a lot of work — and money — to save it.
"My building," Navarre said, "needs tuckpointing. And a lot more."
Inside, five majestic floor-to-ceiling limestone pillars line up on the plank wood floor, sturdy and strong. Nearby sits a "new" 1960s-era Brunswick pool table she bought cheap in Terre Haute. A dollar a game, a sign says.
But out back, a corner of the building is crumbling, shored up with heavy blocks of limestone.
On a recent morning, Navarre sat outside the store in one of four chairs lined up, a modern day version of the old general store Liar's Bench. Just about every morning, a dozen or so men from town show up at the store to drink coffee, share stories and play what Navarre described as "lively" games of euchre. "I open at 8, they're all here by 9, and gone by 11."
The regulars often take up a seat out front, across from McGlocklin Park and the Veterans Memorial. A coal-black cat they call Spike weaves his way through the chairs as the men take in a light breeze, waving at people driving by on a 90-degree day at summer's end.
Motorists pass beneath a banner spanning Main Street heralding the town's Stone Quarry Festival, coming up Sept. 27-29.
Navarre knows most of the people going by, and waves even if she doesn't. She's 20 now, recently married, and grew up at the store, where she spent summers and after-school hours with her Aunt Pam. One of the newspaper stories displayed by the cash register features a picture of her as a toddler, crouched on a crumbling curb outside, intently watching a woolly worm inch along.
Local residents like Wendell Martin count on the store, and hope Navarre can keep it open. He's there every day, and appreciates that he never has to wait in line to make a purchase.
"It's pretty important," he said. "The only store in town."
Source: The Herald-Times
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com