Olivesburg General Store - Serving the community since 1840

Esther Leggett Published:

I'm just amazed how so many people find us! said Jim Coffey, who, together with his wife Carol, owns the Olivesburg General Store, a mainstay of the small community of Olivesburg since 1840.

People literally from all over the world find their way to this little general store right out of yesteryear. Located in rural Richland County just across the Ashland County line, the store serves local residents (including more than 250 Amish families) and tourists alike.

We routinely have people come from all over the United States plus Brazil, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and Italy, Jim said. Not too long ago a lady from Australia came in. I asked her how she ever found out about us, and she said, 'Oh, I just looked around!'

The store looks like it just jumped out of times gone by. The old wooden floors, added by former owners Chamberlain and Henry in 1922, add country charm. The original sign from when they owned the store still hangs inside. The two used to have a barber and billiards room in the basement! And there are a couple calendars on the wall boasting pages from September and December 1965!

The general store has something for everybody. Largely, it's a convenience store with groceries, soda, ice and paper products. The Deli provides meats and cheeses and wonderful sandwiches which are, according to Jim, pretty famous. The store also carries hardware items, feed and seeds, and even sells gasoline. One side of the interior is filled with a fascinating array of antiques - many old tools and kitchen gadgets - so many, in fact, you'll have to look closely or you'll miss something. Right across the aisle, ironically, are videos for rent...a complete blend of the old and the new. Another section of the store stocks gifts, handmade Amish crafts, such as hickory rockers and rugs, and Amish cookbooks.

Perhaps the most popular section is the ice cream parlor area in the front of the store. Delicious Smith Dairy ice cream is served at a beautiful marble counter which was salvaged from an old drug store and installed in the general store back in the 1920s. Complete with old wooden stools, the parlor serves old-fashioned ice cream cones where a single dip means at least two very large ones!

People who grew up here years and years ago come back all the time just to sit on the very same stool they used to sit on as kids, and eat ice cream. They often bring their children and grandchildren to show them what it was like 'way back when,' Jim said. Many recall being brought in by their parents or grandparents.

The local Amish community really likes to eat ice cream, too, Carol added. Since most don't have freezers, ice cream is a real treat to them. Some come in to eat it, and some take a bucket of ice cream home for the family.

Jim and Carol diligently strive to maintain the character of the old store and offer downhome, country-style friendly service. There's even a hitching post for the Amish customers by the back entrance of the store, along with additional parking space.

We try to speak to all the locals by name, Jim said, and offer the best service we can to them.

In fact, while I was in the store, a local resident came over and asked Jim if they could possibly stock a larger-size jar of instant coffee so he wouldn't run out so often. Jim smiled and said, Sure! I'll see to it! Now, doesn't that sound like great service?

Olivesburg General Store sees a regular group of retired gentlemen come in nearly every morning for coffee and companionship. A couple small tables in the back corner create a cozy atmosphere where, in the winter, an old gas stove keeps the coffee drinkers warm on the outside as well as the inside. According to Jim and Carol, the group solves the problems of the world and occasionally dabbles in heated political discussions!

And if one of the group doesn't come in some morning, the others are concerned something is wrong, Carol said. It's really a connected local community.

On the wall just outside the front door of the general store, there is a list of all the former owners of the store from 1882 to the present. The names from 1840 to 1882 aren't available, as the old records were lost when the Richland County Court House burned down in the mid-1800s.

So just how do the non-local and local patrons find Olivesburg General Store? The answer is clear: they find it quaint, charming and a place where the past truly meets the present.

Olivesburg General Store is located just off Ohio Route 96 in Richland County, at the intersection of Ohio Routes 545 and 603; (419) 895-1038 or (419) 289-7548, folgersmg@aol.com; summer hours: Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sun. 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; winter hours: 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. seven days a week; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day and Easter Sunday only. (July 2001 Edition)

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