- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

SANDYSTON, N.J. (AP) - The Hainesville General Store offers a little bit of everything: A renowned selection of homemade pies, a deli and grocery, antiques, a checkerboard and even a registration station for turkey hunters.

It can be yours for $819,000.

Megan and Bob Horst, the store’s owners for 22 years, recently put the Route 206 building up for sale.

The news was a jolt to longtime customers who, while seeing the Horsts as friends and wishing them the best, are concerned about what a sale might mean for the longtime community hub.

Michael Milligan, a regular, dropped by Thursday for the daily luncheon special — beef chili with cheddar and onions — and discussed what makes the store special to him.

“You run into people you haven’t seen in a while, and seeing them here for 10 minutes allows you to rekindle that relationship,” Milligan told NJ.com (https://bit.ly/2rrWVyX).

Bob Horst is a big fan of conversation — face to face, not via a cellphone.

“I don’t know how to text,” said Horst, 66.

Horst said he hopes to find a buyer who wants to continue the general store tradition, but acknowledged there is no guarantee that will happen.

General stores were a New Jersey staple in the 19th century — the 3,000-square-foot building in Hainesville dates to 1883 — but are now mostly relegated to the state’s most rural areas.

Horst said he and his wife of 35 years are looking forward to additional time with their 2-year-old granddaughter.

Megan Horst, known for much of the store’s baking, is recovering from surgery and taking some time off from the store. Her husband said that is another factor in seeking to sell.

It could take a while to find a buyer, he said. He and his wife previously owned stores in Maplewood and North Arlington and it took seven years to sell the latter property.

But Horst, in offering a tour of his store Thursday, certainly seemed in no hurry to leave.

He showed off a remarkable array of collectibles, including an empty bottle of “Joe Louis Punch,” a 1940s-era grape soft drink named for the heavyweight champion.

He pointed to a first-place ribbon by the cash register, from the state fair in Sussex County, for the store’s mixed berry pie.

He brought out an autographed photo of Joe Pepitone, an All-Star New York Yankee first baseman and outfielder a half-century ago.

Pepitone was an occasional customer until a couple of years ago, stopping off during drives to a friend’s residence by Milford, and Horst is a huge Yankees fan.

“He actually bought a couple of antique pieces off us, to refinish,” Horst said.

In another celebrity sighting, about 20 years ago, the late comedian David Brenner came in with his wife during a visit to a nearby summer camp.

More recently, Horst said his wife was working when “Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli — he played Tony’s nephew — walked into the store.

“He came in looking for a men’s room, but he did buy some stuff,” Host said, relating what she told him.

“That was a one-time deal. He was going from somewhere to somewhere,” Horst said, employing the type of vague description favored by Imperioli’s character on the Sopranos.

Horst grew in Newark. He was a police officer in Maplewood for about seven years and quit around the time, in the early 1980s, that he and Megan opened their first store, also in Maplewood.

They sold that store and bought a second store in North Arlington seven years later, moving along the way to Morristown.

They settled in Frankford upon buying the Hainesville General Store.

Hunters are among their most loyal customers, he said. The store had a deer check station until 2012, when New Jersey switched to an automated season.

“They’ll talk about the deer they missed or the turkey they almost got,” he said.

“They sit here and have coffee. They talk about the weather,” he said.

It is a relaxed pace that he seems to relish, despite his plan to sell the store.

“Down below, everybody is in such a hurry,” he said, using a Sussex County phrase that generally references areas south of Route 80 or east of Route 287.

The lifestyle embodied by his store, he said, is different.

“To have that time to develop those relationships, it’s a little more laid back,” he said.

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