THE CHAPIN GENERAL STORE as seen on Friday, Aug. 18 just before the final sale began.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
A final sale was held at the Chapin General Store on Friday, Aug. 18 and Saturday, Aug. 19 marking the end of an era. The store is located on the intersection of Chapin and Ridge roads, a few miles north of Owosso. The building was constructed after a fire had destroyed an older store in 1911. For the previous 60 years, the store, owned by Mary and Carl Goldman, has served the community with everything from spark plugs, miscellaneous toys, deli meats, gardening items, and hunting licenses. Carl and Mary passed away several years ago and since that time, the store has remained vacant. Because the structure has deteriorated, it will be demolished in September. However, existing family members came together and organized the “Chapin General Store’s Goodbye Sale” to allow people to revisit the store and purchase a vintage souvenir item, or two.
On the morning of Friday, Aug. 18, an exceedingly large crowd gathered in front of the building, with vehicles parked in all directions. Family members allowed smaller groups in at a single time so as not to completely overwhelm the constricted space. Most of the first shoppers were there because they were inspired by a sense of nostalgia. Many of them were willing to share stories about “the old days.”
Lois Jones Boone, of Chapin, had a unique connection to the business. Her parents, Paul and Frances Jones, had owned the building for a short period in 1945, when she was only a baby. Her bassinet was kept in the back of the store at that time. Her mother later shared with her the tale of how members from the POW camp west of Owosso (the area of Owosso Speedway), were often taken by the government to “state land north of M-57, and on the way back they would often stop at the store to buy cigarettes or candy bars.” Boone also shared how the German men would joke about the water out back, calling it “Michigan beer” since they believed that American beer was weak compared to their own homeland brews. She also explained how happy they were to see a baby, though it probably reminded them of their own families and made them homesick.
Another story Boone shared was about the festive Halloween parties that were held on the second floor. “I went to a one room country school called the Booth School. On Halloween, after trick-or-treating, the adults would have a party upstairs for the kids. We would bob for apples and different, fun activities.”
Over time, the second floor was used for any number of activities, from parties to wedding receptions. The last known wedding reception held at the location was George and Effie Keck, who were married on May 11, 1946. “The entire building was shaking,” Effie said. “Ours was the last reception held there.”
Carol Smolka also attended the final sale held at the Chapin Store on Friday morning. Smolka said that she had known Mary and Carl Goldman. “I came here as a little girl. It was always fun.” Smolka purchased a simple, glass saltshaker as a memento.
Lisa Jean Allswede and Al Baron II, along with other family members, organized the event. Al Baron is the son of Mary’s first husband. Allswede is a granddaughter.