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Waynesboro News Agency closing its doors

Store has been busy since word spread of its shutting down

June 29, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Customers Delisa Leonard, Solly Mohn, and Charlie Guyer line up at the counter Tuesday at Wayde Christophel's Waynesboro News Agency on Main Street in Waynesboro, Pa.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Wayde Christophel doesn't have a definite closing time for the Waynesboro News Agency Wednesday, the business' last day of operation.

"As long as the people are coming in, we'll stay open," he said.

Christophel said the store has been busy since word spread of its closing. The problem is, he said, the News Agency hasn't been that consistently busy in recent years.

The decision to close was "very hard" for Wayde and Kim Christophel, and the couple only reached the agreement in the past month, he said. It comes after watching revenues stay in a diminished state month after month.

"We like it here. We don't want to close," Christophel said. "It's come down to necessity at this point."

The News Agency held on while similar businesses in Waynesboro folded. Aside from things like an upgraded countertop and remodeled back room, the store looks much like it did decades ago. Still in use are the display cases that formerly held parts to fix men's shaving razors, benches from the early 1900s, and heavy, dark wooden shelves behind the sale counter.

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In the back are the remnants of a bowling alley, with parts of the marked floor, a bench where children sat, and a ball return intact.

On one wall, four pictures dated 1913, 1916, 1929 and 1947 show changes through the years. The business transformed from a "smoke shoppe" to barber shop and later a general store. Christophel said some people still call the News Agency "Boerner's" in reference to Robert Boerner's ownership starting in the late 1920s, when the business was oriented to men and sold a little bit of everything.

David Calimer, 47, remembers being in awe of a lengthy wall of comic books at the store when he was a child. He purchased penny candy from the counter after Little League games and, as a teenager, picked up 45s by the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

"This was a really popular place," he said.

Calimer described a sense of disbelief about not being able to go across the street for good food starting Thursday.

"I have fond memories of this place, but that's how life is," Calimer said. "The big question is -- what will happen next?"

Christophel said Patrick Fleagle, Main Street Waynesboro Inc.'s economic development director, visited the News Agency regularly for years. Fleagle is investigating ways to reopen the business.

"I'll listen to ideas," Christophel said.

Christophel said he's not someone who typically complains about the government, but he blames increased taxes on tobacco for hurting his bottom line. People are buying cartons of cigarettes outside Pennsylvania or off the Internet, he said.

"We probably lost 80 to 85 percent of our cigarette sales in the past few years," Christophel said.

Food sales remained consistent, he said.

Charlie Guyer, 75, eats breakfast and lunch at the same time each day at the News Agency. He'd read a few newspapers and visit with staff and other regulars.

"It's the best place to patronize," he said.

For all the store's history in town, Christophel first stepped foot in it close to 14 years ago when he and a business partner, Paul Adolini, were considering buying it. He remembers being impressed by the wood floors, tin ceiling and fountains.

"I fell in love with it right away," he said.

Christophel and Adolini reduced cigarette prices to the state minimum, expanded the food menu and changed the hours to 5 a.m. to midnight. Those hours were later scaled back to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Christophel family took over in 2000 and sold the building when the economy soured in an effort to stay in the black. They laid off employees as sales continued to underwhelm.

Despite the financial concerns, the Christophels and employees tried to remain focused on customers. They'd spot a regular customer parking his or her car and start preparing that person's favorite meal.

It'd be served on the table by the time the person sat down, Christophel said.

"It's almost like family because you see them so much. ... Probably that connection with the customers was the biggest thing over the years," he said.

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