Store celebrates 100 anniversary

June 08, 1997


Staff Writer

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - It's the kind of store where they greet you by name when you walk in.

They probably greeted your father the same way. And your grandfather. Maybe even your great-grandfather, too.

Shimer's Racket Store at 207 Lincoln Way East in downtown McConnellsburg has been in operation since 1897. The town will help celebrate the store's 100th birthday on July 5. Other downtown stores are joining in the celebration. They have promotional posters in their front windows saying Shimer's store has been the "Purveyor of general merchandise since 1897."

"You have a sense of history working in here," said Mahlon Shimer, 44, current owner and the third generation in his family in the store. He started working in it in 1972. It's the only job he's ever had. He bought out his father, Hiley Shimer, in 1976.


Mahlon Shimer is the first sole proprietor to own the store. All previous owners were partners.

Shimer knows the store's history by heart.

It was the end of 1896. A wholesale merchandiser named Rouss Racket from New York City opened a store in town, he said. The store opened in a building on the corner of Second Street and Lincoln Way East.

Racket had been opening a chain of general merchandise stores around the East.

He brought in his own manager from New York to run his new McConnellsburg store. "He only lasted a month," Shimer said. "He brought in a second one and he lasted two months."

After that two local men, Bill Hall and Harvey Bender were hired by Racket to run his store. A few months later Hall and Bender bought the business from Racket. The inventory and the name stayed the same - a requirement of Racket's for owners to qualify for credit and cheaper wholesale prices, Mahlon Shimer said.

In 1900 the store moved to its current address. Hall and Bender kept the store until 1927 when Levi Morton, Shimer's grandfather on his mother's side, and Lou Harris bought out the partnership.

Harris' son, Ernest Harris, later took over from his father. He was joined in the partnership by Hiley Shimer, Mahlon's father. Then came Merle Stenger. He started working in the store in 1947, a half-century after it opened. Stenger had just come home from World War II service.

Stenger and Hiley Shimer later became partners and ran the store together until 1976 when Shimer's share moved down to his son, Mahlon. Stenger and Mahlon Shimer were partners until 1989 when Stenger retired and Shimer took over on his own.

Stenger, 71, still works in the store five hours a day. "I'm on salary," he said.

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