Couple bring new life to old store

Antique: Closed since the 1940s, Gatchellville Store is now filled with relics from the past.

October 17, 2004|By Mary Ellen Graybill | Mary Ellen Graybill,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GATCHELLVILLE, Pa. - The population of Gatchellville recently grew by hundreds in one day. The boom was for the celebration of the first anniversary of a new - yet old - Gatchellville Store with owners Carroll Swam and Linda Sarubin.

People came from as far as Howard County to see the store, which is run by the husband-and-wife team in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania, near the Maryland line.

Some were there to play, hear bluegrass music, and have cake and cookies. Others, like Jo and Dick Asher of Watercolor Lavender Farm in Harford County, support the store and the couple who reopened it.

"Linda is a marketing genius, and she helped me with marketing," said Jo Asher.

"We're not quite turning a profit, but we're doing well. ... We're on a path where we have had people stop by during the week, and if we're home, we'll come out. ... " Swam said.

The store is open on weekends and by appointment. Usually it is Sarubin who responds during the week when Mason, the owners' poodle, notifies with a bark that there is a customer in the driveway.

"We've had very good success with people calling and making appointments," Sarubin said. "But I spent a lot of time this winter in the store wearing pajamas and my slippers because people come by here and ... will beep the horn, and they'll call and say, `I'm in the driveway and. ... '"

This is a different pace from the antique business Sarubin ran for 20 years at her stores on Read and Howard streets in Baltimore.

Inside the store on New Park Road are country furnishings and vintage musical instruments -19th-century parlor guitars, guitars by Gibson and Martin, mandolins and banjos.

There are antique buttons, tools, doors, shutters, old books and Bakelite jewelry and toys.

The Gatchellville Store is a new kind of old store. The peeling paint will remain, and the windows will be decorated at Christmastime like they were years ago - each with a tree. Sarubin and Swam are only the fourth owners, and they plan to keep the store as a showplace for their wares.

They won't polish or paint. The store is like it was when it closed in the late 1940s. It is filled with relics from the past- such as the Victorian perfume buttons with velvet inserts, which were used to hold fragrance.

The owners are adjusting to life in the slow lane, in a town with no streetlights.

"We've had the store for about two years, and actually had the store set up for about a year. We opened up last summer," Swam said.

The set of buildings on a main street in a quiet town was a harmonious find for Swam. The store - founded by Matthew McCall, once the town postmaster, then president of the York Bank after the Civil War - was sold in 1894, Swam said.

He grew up in rural Parkton, and his family once lived in a 19th-century schoolhouse. "My dad was an electrician, but my mother's parents and my mother's brother were storekeepers," he said.

After retiring from a career as an elementary school teacher at Franklin, Glyndon and then Sparks elementary schools, he continued a longtime habit of collecting antiques, he said.

"I started to realize I don't have a place for all this stuff, and I'm going to sell some of it. Then, it was ... a logical thing to open up a store, so we had a place to display," he said.

"I was always interested in old things. I always had an interest in local history and in anything that's sort of related to the past," Swam said.

Sarubin, his wife of one year, said she was a city girl until the move to Gatchellville.

"I never wanted to be in the country - ever," she said.

But she changed her mind when she saw the store. "When we got out of the car, walked up on the front porch and looked in the front door, you couldn't help but say, `Oh my gosh.' ... It was like coming home."

For Sarubin and Swam, who each had grandparents who owned country stores, "it was like going back in time," she said.

"And when we walked in the first time, the smell, just the feel of the air was so evocative. ... It was so ideal for us in so many ways," Sarubin said.

"I had a problem with loneliness when I first moved out here, but we have a lot of regulars that are so happy to have some place to stop by and just sit and chat," she said.

Kathy Ward of Border Arts drove from Ellicott City to buy some old suitcases to paint with designs.

A 62-inch-by-96-inch calico star quilt made by Emma Warner of York County in 1880 covers the entry wall. And there is a plank-bottom chair, shiny and sturdy to the touch, priced at $12.

Popular Mechanics from the 1950s are stacked in the middle of a Formica table, which is priced at $75 and includes four chairs.

There are several old sleds and a jar of buttons for $5 - bargains for the garden and home, Sarubin said.

"A year ago, no one knew we were here. It's nice to see the amount of people that stopped by today," she said.

The store's visitors are usually looking for the past - either a memory or an object they can buy. Not many places have Margaret Slattery's The Girl in Her Teens, a 1910 Sunday School Times book.

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