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Holding Their Own

Local country stores surviving recession

February 1, 2009
By RICHARD NILSEN/The Leader-Herald

Anita Wineberg, owner of the C & A Superette in Stratford, says her country store has steady customers.

"I don't think the economy has much effect here," she said.

Her store carries a good supply of hardware, groceries, beer, snacks and coffee - items she knows people in her area want.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Customers John and Frances Doyle of Lassellsville enjoy lunch served by Nancy Cole, co-owner of Snappies Country Store in Lassellsville on Thursday. Nancy Cole and Ernie Mosher, brother and sister, are co-owners of Snappies.

"We do real good with hardware," she said. "People have to go nine miles to Dolgeville or 12 miles to Caroga for supplies otherwise."

Wineberg and the owners of several other local country stores say their businesses are surviving the recession in part because their stores save customers on travel costs and offer items specifically needed in their areas.

Wineberg, a former Stratford supervisor, said she carries local newspapers along with her other supplies.

"That's good for rural people that stay closer to home," she said.

Helping supply the needs to local people and those who stop by is a good thing for Wineberg.

"I enjoy people," she said.

At Groom's Store in Caroga, owner Jerry Groom said his biggest money makers are beer and cigarette sales.

Local customers also buy his hardware supplies because they don't want to travel farther for basic hardware and plumbing needs, he said.

Groom said weather has been a big factor in his sales this year.

"Snowmobilers are great customers," he said. "They buy gas, two-cycle oil, food and coffee."

Groom said his sales are up significantly this winter compared to last winter because of the cold and snow.

He said he's noticed a difference in his customers' spending habits, however.

"When gas went way up, a lot more people were using their credit cards," he said. "Then, by the time gas came down, I saw a whole lot of change and rolled coin coming in to pay for fill-ups. It was like they had maxed out their credit cards and were down to robbing their piggy banks."

Up Route 29A two miles at the Canada Lake Store in Caroga, owner Dorothy Fielding said, "It's hard to tell if we are slower than last winter, but we haven't noticed any drop in sales."

She said the cold and snow have been good for winter sports, and with gas prices back down, people are getting out more.

"We've had a very good year because of snowmobilers," she said.

In Speculator, Charlie Johns store owner Jonathan Lane said business has been steady at his supermarket location, although it was a bit off at his nearby department store.

"Business has been steady - pretty decent," he said.

Karl Christensen of Lassellsville said he and his wife, Donna, bought Snappies Country Store in Lassellsville in 2005 and planned to rejuvenate the store and sell it to a local proprietor three years later.

He completed the sale to Ernie Mosher of St. Johnsville and Mosher's sister, Nancy Cole, in January.

"It was always in our business plan to get it going and sell it," Christensen said. "It's nice to have local ownership."

Christensen said the fluctuations in gas prices and the Wall Street meltdown have had little effect on the rural convenience store.

"[Mosher and Cole] won't be starting with nothing on the shelves like we did," Christensen said. "We showed a 32 percent growth in sales in 2008 over 2007."

He said he attributes his success to personalized service to his customers and managing the finances for the store "with an iron fist."

Mosher said he plans to keep providing the same goods and services that Christensen offered, but with expanded hours.

"So far it's going pretty good," he said.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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