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Pa. store has changed little since 1850s

June 11, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer

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Stickell's General Store

UPTON, Pa. - If you don't see what you want in Stickell's General Store, chances are you don't need it.

The store, at 5489 Buchanan Trail West, has been serving Upton-area residents - mostly farmers - since the 1850s.

The current owner puts in plenty of hours.

"I'm like the family farm. I stay in business because I'm willing to put the time in," said George F. Henneberger, who has owned of the store since 1978.

Much of the merchandise crowding the aisles, shelves, nooks and crannies is not unlike what was on the shelves when the store was new - work clothes, boots, hats, shirts, jeans and overalls, kitchenware, some hardware, tools, seeds and garden supplies.

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The store also sells leather goods, snacks, deli items, canned goods, fresh produce, pine tar toilet soap and old-fashioned oatmeal soap for face and bath.

Store hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Henneberger, 44, grew up in Chambersburg, Pa. His father, a banker who had a retirement farm near Upton, talked him into buying the store from its then-owner, Catherine Stickell.

Stickell, along with her husband, Fred, had operated the store from the 1940s until about 1978.

The store originally was a tavern on the corner of Lemar Road and Pa. 16, Henneberger said.

He joined the Army in 1972 and graduated in 1976 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Va.

"I came into it blind. I didn't know a thing," he said. He relied on Julia Wagaman, 57, the store's longtime employee, to show him the ropes.

"If it wasn't for her, I'd be out of business," he said.

"I've been working here for 24 years. I started with Mrs. Stickell and stayed on after he bought it," Wagaman said.

Henneberger lives across the street from the store and has three children, all of whom work there on weekends.

He said he would "not allow any of them to take over the store. If you're not willing to work 100 hours a week, seven days a week, you don't belong in this business," he said.

About half of the store's customers are farm families lured by its rugged work boots and clothes. Others are laborers or skilled tradesmen like bricklayers, utility workers and carpenters, whose tough outside work requires them to wear heavy wool and twill shirts, pants and jackets. Hunters also but at the store.

"Nothing I sell goes out of style. None of it is trendy. It's down-to-earth. This is my niche," Henneberger said.

"Most of my customers don't go on vacation. They work all year and then go hunting. It's what they live for," he said.

He said it's harder to find American-made goods with venerable old labels like Carhartt or Williamson-Dickie, union-made trademarks that draw repeat customers to the store from throughout the Tri-State area.

He said it is getting harder to buy merchandise at competitive prices. Most manufacturers make their products for the big chains today.

"When I first bought the store, I had about 30 salespeople come in here. Now I have about 12," he said.

A wheel of sharp cheddar cheese usually sits on the store's counter. Over the years it has become one of the best-sellers.

"It's probably one of the things I'm known for around here," he said.

Henneberger and Wagaman are on a first-name basis with 80 percent of the store's customers.

"Sometimes if one of them doesn't come in for a while, I wonder if they're alright," Wagaman said.

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