Sunday, August 5, 2012

Market Continues Old Merc Tradition

There is a large, framed photograph in the deli-cafe of Garden Valley Market, which portrays the spirit of the old Crouch Merc. The photograph was taken on July 4, 1942, by Sergeant Mouser, of Gowan Field.

  Recognize some of these names? They are all there: “Clo” Catherine Moore; Irene, Phil and Marla Gundersen; Cecil and Mrs. Jones; Mrs. Mouser; ER and Elsie Webb; Dick and Bud Fisher; Dave Hannah; Bert Jewell and Earl Graham; Fern and Geo Nosker; Beulah “Mary” Reay; and children, Tony and Joyce Roark.

  Former owner of the Merc, Helen Jones, visited the new store and donated the photograph to the Garden Valley Market early this year, just before she passed away. Co-owner, Greg Simione, says, “Helen loved the new market. She marveled—“It’s wonderful, beautiful!”

  Walter and Helen Jones owned the Merc from 1940 to 1964. Their niece, Beverly Weatherspoon, of Meridian, remembers the store and the town: “The Mercantile was a place of gathering. Community folks shared their concerns, happenings in their lives, and the good, old town “gossip” of the day.”

  Mrs. Weatherspoon spent her summers in Crouch and felt like “Aunt Honey” and Uncle Wally were her second parents, as they had no children. “I knew everybody up and down the river,’ she muses, “My aunt and uncle were loved by all the people in the area. Aunt Honey was adored by everyone—she was a really terrific person. In the summer, folks would flock in and get a Popsicle or drink and sit on the front porch benches to talk to her.”

  The frigid winter drew people around the pot-bellied stove in the back of the store, with the same neighborly discussions ensuing.

  Wally and Helen had a bedroom, tiny kitchen, and small living room behind the stove. Weatherspoon has the old pump that sat by the kitchen sink. Later, an inside bathroom, another bedroom, dining area and garage were added onto the original building. The same hardwood floors and front door—with layers of paint--are still there. Helen had a small yard where she gardened and sat under the tree to welcome visitors.

  Thursday was Uncle Wally’s “town day”. When he returned from Boise with supplies, he packaged all of the meat products and put dry ice into the ice cream and cold-drink coolers. The candy case was always full and many children left the store with a free goody.
The Joneses practiced good will in another way. They subsidized loggers for the winter and accepted payment in the summer. Walter had a trailer park built behind the store, for construction workers, who became a part of the town as it grew.

   Beverly Weatherspoon also has the Merc’s antique telephone. She says, “Everyone had a number of rings. One ring was Mrs. Gundersen; two rings were the Mitchell’s, maybe. The Post Office was located in the back of the store and was very time-consuming. It was finally moved to Elsie Webb’s house, where the Trading Post is now.”

  Several years ago, when the old Merc was busting at its seams, Simione and his partner, Gerold Dennett, made the decision to build a new store in Crouch.

  Simione stands in the attractive produce section of the Garden Valley Market and says, “We’ve just celebrated our first anniversary. The store is nice; it’s been well-received by the community. It’s retained its charm...but we are just a part of the history that was the old Crouch Merc. The grocery store has always been the center of activity—the place to gather. We just continued the tradition and grew up with the town.”

  He walks through the cafe, where the fireplace and tables and chairs create a cozy ambience. “We’re going to bring in the old train from the Merc and put up lots of photos of the past. Even Helen Jones approved of what we’re doing here.

  “The store has kept the tradition of the Merc, which was to be a place for locals, a place to get groceries and get caught up on life and a place that made it possible to live here.”


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