Everyone likes unique Biglerville Country Store

December 06, 1997

Everyone likes unique Biglerville Country Store


Staff Writer

BIGLERVILLE, Pa. - Mamie Eisenhower was a regular customer.

Her husband, President Dwight Eisenhower, stopped in once to play with the old coffee grinder.

And Jack Paar dropped in for a quick visit.

The famous and thousands of the non-famous have shopped or browsed in the Biglerville Country Store since it opened in 1909.

Ner and Nettie Thomas had a four-story building constructed on the corner of Pa. 34 and Pa. 234 in Biglerville, a hamlet of about 700 souls six miles north of Gettysburg, Pa. The town bills itself as the apple capital of the world for the orchards that ring it.


The store was the first building in the area to have indoor plumbing, central heating and electricity.

The store is run today by the Thomas' two daughters, Jean Thomas, 85, and her sister, Marion Thomas Harbaugh, 77. "We started working in here when we were little kids," Harbaugh said.

Today the store is as much a curiosity as it is a place to shop. Framed newspaper stories, including a yellowed one that ran in the New York Times in 1960, decorate the top of one counter. Last month the sisters and their store were featured in a "60 Minutes" segment.

The Times' story focused on Ike's visit to the store in May 29, 1960. It appeared below a national story that day about Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's anger over the downing of a United States U-2 spy plane over his country.

One of the sisters' most cherished items is a black and white photo of the president and their father.

The store's shelves, counters, corners and cases stock kitchen ware and hardware, Story Book Dolls, Beanie Babies, toys, books, pots and pans, bolts of calico, ribbon, knick knacks, baskets, dishes, ceramics, boots, lanterns, underwear, candles, music boxes, penny candy, lamps, cleaning stuff, pillows, paintings, bonnets and bells.

A collection of sleds, many dating to the 19th century, sit along a large shelf that rings the main sales floor.

"We've been collecting them for more than 40 years," Harbaugh said.

A sign hanging out front heralds the store's claim of having 1,000 prom gowns.

They're on the third floor of the building which long ago began showing its age. The gowns are jammed on racks in a half-dozen third-floor rooms next to racks of party dresses, wedding gowns and accessories and dresses for Eastern Star ladies.

"We get really busy at prom time and before holidays," said Eleanor Cashman, one of two sales clerks in the store.

Harbaugh graduated from Wilson College in 1946 and then from New York University with a degree in merchandising. She went to work for Lord and Taylor, the exclusive New York department store. She stayed until 1951.

"I was having fun, but I was starting to feel guilty about the store back home. They needed me back here," she said.

She said she brought women's fashions to the store. "I got tired of dipping out lard and selling nails," she said.

"Years ago we sold necessary things like groceries, hardware and tons of yard goods. Few people bought clothes in those days. They made their own. Today we sell the things we love," Harbaugh said.

Gerri Volaski of Carlisle was with two friends poring over the inventory in the basement.

"I always shop here for the holidays," she said. "Whenever company comes to town I bring them here. You can find one-of-a-kind items at reasonable prices."

"We have more than 50,000 items in this store. We love for people to come in, look in every nook and cranny and have a beautiful day exploring," Harbaugh said.

The store is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday during the Christmas shopping season only.

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