Gamber General Store to shut, victim of hard times

April 11, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Within 10 minutes, one customer bought two packs of cigarettes and a gallon of milk, another a lottery ticket, and a third purchased a kit to dye Easter eggs.

But the owners say the business isn't enough for them to keep the Gamber General Store open. After at least 80 years, the little shop at the corner of Routes 32 and 91 will probably close at the end of this month.

"We don't want to leave, but it's something that has to be done," said Charles Risko, who has owned the business with his wife, Joanne, for four years. "We can't keep putting money into something that isn't working."

Mr. Risko took over the store, which sells a variety of goods from bread and candy to rabbit feed and fertilizer, after working as a branch manager for the Lance snack food company.

"I thought I wanted to own a business," he said. "When we first got in here, we made a little profit. It was not much, but it was something."

Then the economy went sour, Mr. Risko said. He was forced to work for a courier service in Baltimore in June, and the family began relying on Mrs. Risko's salary as a machine operator for McCormick & Co. Inc. in Baltimore, he said.

"It's not the competition, it's just the economy thing," Mr. Risko said. "People used to come in and buy, but now they make sure they get what they need at the big store. They just don't have the bucks any more." The general store's customer base has always been solid, said Joyce Ford, whose husband, Edsel, bought the store with his brother Henry in 1948. Even when the High's convenience store was built across the street around 1983, the Gamber General Store didn't suffer.

"[The High's] hurt a little bit at first because they run so many specials," she said. "But we had been there a long time and we had regular customers that were faithful. You name it, we carried it."

The couple sold the building to the Timchula family when Edsel Ford became ill in 1985, she said. The space was then sold to Betty Barnes, and the Riskos bought the store from Ms. Barnes in 1989.

"It took a lot of time, but it was our livelihood," Ms. Ford said. "We lived there and I raised four girls there."

Ms. Ford said she knows the store, a Gamber landmark, has been in existence since 1914. She said she has a photo from that time, when the store was known as Shipley and Bonner. "It's kind of sad," she said of the closing.

Joseph Getty, executive director of the Historical Society of Carroll County, said he is unsure how long the Gamber General Store has been open. Records and maps dating to 1877 show two stores in the Gamber area, and he said he is unsure if either is the same as Mr. Risko's.

The store has been on the market for nine months. Mr. Risko said he remains hopeful that new owners for the little green store with the wooden porch will appear.

"You never know," he said. "Someone might want it."

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