- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

SPARTANSBURG, Pa. (AP) - Mineral-spirit lamps light shelves of soup mixes, bulk candies, natural remedies and straw hats.

A homemade ice chest keeps perishables fresh, including roll butter and sausage casing.

The restroom is an outhouse near the parking lot.

Schrock’s General Store, 43446 Penoyer Road in Rome Township, Crawford County, has been the Spartansburg area’s “Amish Walmart” for 26 years.

But Amish owners Lawrence and Barbara Schrock hope to sell the store and its unique inventory and retire, or at least not be so busy.

“It’s not that we don’t like it. It’s just too much,” said Barbara Schrock, 60.

“We started the business for our children so they could work at home and not have to work in town. But three of our children don’t live in this settlement now, and one does but doesn’t want it,” said Lawrence Schrock, 62.

Barbara Schrock minds the counter, where customers pay cash only for purchases, while her husband takes first-timers on a tour of the store, pointing out raw honey, maple syrup, goat’s milk soaps, gluten-free and organic foods, quilting and craft supplies, and battery-powered head lamps that provide light to work outdoors at night.

“They used to be so big and heavy that you’d put it on your hat and your hat fell down,” Lawrence Schrock said.

More shelves display fudge, books, laundry bluing, natural pumpkin custard pie mix, work gloves, slow-cooker seasonings, oil cloth and hand-cranked blenders — “whatever sells good,” Lawrence Schrock said.

Clearance aisles offer merchandise that did not sell, at discount.

“We put stuff in because people need it,” Lawrence Schrock said. “We’ve always tried to get what people want. This store is alive and going. It’s not like an old hardware store where boxes on the top shelf are all dusty and have been there 20 years.”

The store caters to the Spartansburg area Amish community.

“Before we opened, our people had to go to the big towns to shop,” Lawrence Schrock said.

But customers regularly come from Spartansburg’s non-Amish community, from Erie and often from much farther afield.

“It’s because this store is unique. It has so many things you can’t get anywhere else,” Lawrence Schrock said.

The Schrocks know the names of regular customers and recognize others who come once or twice a year.

“People who come to visit here say while they’re here they have to come to Schrock’s,” Lawrence Schrock said.

Particularly popular with customers is the Schrock family’s songbook, “Joyous Melodies,” now in its sixth edition of 3,000. Each earlier edition sold out.

“We as a family like to sit down and sing. We put our family favorites together in the songbooks. It’s unreal how many we’ve sold,” Lawrence Schrock said.

The most recent edition includes some 70 gospel, children’s, folk and Christmas songs added since previous editions. The songs are written in verse, with no music.

Marilynn Moore, of Titusville, has been shopping at Schrock’s General Store off and on for about a decade, buying mostly paring knives, food and gloves. Family and friends who have accompanied her to Schrock’s generally buy fabric, she said.

“It’s a good place to take kids because they like the (aisles of) candy and, in the old days, the animals, like peacocks, that roamed around outside,” Moore said.

Ducks greeted visitors in the store parking lot earlier this month.

“It’s just a nice atmosphere,” Moore said. “The Schrocks are very pleasant.”

Schrock’s General Store has prospered and expanded several times since its evolution from the couple’s original store, a butcher shop that processed more than 800 deer in its final year. But people don’t realize how much money and work made that possible, Barbara Schrock said.

“They see what goes out of the store. They don’t realize what goes into it,” she said.

The Schrocks buy their goods from local vendors, from regional suppliers and sometimes from other stores, including one $40,000 buyout, Barbara Schrock said, that provided a “rude awakening,” Lawrence Schrock said.

“Most of the stuff was junk,” he said. “But it was a lesson learned.”

The Schrocks are willing to help a new owner or owners get the feel of the business and learn from their successes and mistakes.

“I’ll gladly help somebody make the changeover,” Lawrence Schrock said. “Someone can’t just walk in and take it over. I don’t ever want to see that happen.”

And the Schrocks are just an “Amish phone” call away. Their home is on the other side of the store’s parking lot and is connected to the store by a pipe that runs beneath the parking lot. Pipe openings inside the home and on the wall near the store counter allow communications between family in either location.

“He can hear me from here no matter what part of the house he’s in,” Barbara Schrock said.

The couple plan to more aggressively advertise the store for sale but agree that they will miss it.

“We’ve made a lot of good friends over the years,” Barbara Schrock said.





Information from: Erie Times-News, https://www.goerie.com

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