- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

BURLINGTON JUNCTION, Mo. (AP) - Whether you’re in need of groceries or guitars, apple juice or amplifiers, there’s a one-stop shop in Nodaway County with everything you’re looking for.

Burlington Junction Grocery, owned by Northwest Missouri State University graduate William Skretta, functions first as a convenience store with a fairly wide selection of foodstuffs, snacks and beverages. The business also serves as a musical equipment and repair shop for area musicians, and the big window facing Main Street usually displays several guitars.

The set-up may sound like something out of a movie, but the store serves a very real purpose in a town where residents would otherwise have to drive dozens of miles just to stock their refrigerators.

“We’re in a town of like, 500 people or something,” Skretta said. “It’s either Maryville, Tarkio or Clarinda after us. It’s a really big commuting community - a lot of people work over in Maryville and Clarinda. I’m kind of the guy for, ‘Oh no, I forgot this for dinner.’”

Skretta opened his mini-mart in the spring of 2006. In college, he started out as a music major at Northwest, but switched to business management after opening the store, earning his degree in 2011.

A bass guitarist, music has always been important to Skretta, who was a member of the Bearcat Marching Band. After opening the grocery store, a family member convinced him to incorporate his musical background into the store’s business plan, The Maryville Daily Forum reported (https://bit.ly/TzcrEc ).

“It was actually my uncle (that inspired me),” Skretta said. “He said, ‘well, don’t you sell enough (guitars) that you can do a side business or something? Why don’t you just do that?’ And finally I was like, ‘I’ll listen to you for once.’”

But the guitar and amp business is still very much a sideline.

“The groceries pay the bills and all that,” Skretta said. “I do repairs - buy, sell, trade. It kind of turned into a little side business, and I guess that helps fund my own hobby.”

Hanging at the back of the store, high on the wall, are several signed guitars. Skretta is most proud of a lightning yellow guitar signed by the alternative rock group Bowling For Soup and another bearing autographs by Barenaked Ladies.

He’s seen Grammy-nominated Bowling For Soup several times and chatted with its members. Band manager Dave Hale and bass guitarist Erik Chandler came to recognized Skretta on the road and arranged for the autograph session at a show in Omaha, Neb.

Skretta finds most of his guitars online after taking requests from customers for specific kinds of instruments.

“I buy my guitars in a four-state region - just traveling between Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska,” Skretta said. “I pretty much pick and choose what I want if I get a good enough deal. I bring it back here, and some people come in and buy them directly from me, and some people contact me and say, ‘hey, I’m looking for this, what can you find me?’”

And music-wise and food-wise, business is pretty good these days at the Burlington Junction Grocery. Currently Skretta is preparing to do some remodeling by knocking down a wall that blocks off a back room in order to create more shop space.

Skretta said he doesn’t have many long-term plans for the store - he’s just taking things day-by-day. Though he did joke about someday selling firearms so he could call the store “G-Cubed” for “groceries, guitars and guns.”

There is one hitch with the guitar business, however. Sometimes it’s hard to part with a really nice instrument.

“It’s really hard being a musician and wanting to collect stuff and also trying to sell it,” Skretta said. “You’re trying to find this happy medium of keeping cool stuff but also trying to make money and not go into debt doing it.”

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