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Monday, September 12, 2011

Joe French's Variety Store

I was sitting on my recliner this afternoon still wondering what I was going to write about for the Blog when the phone rang. It was Victoria Eddy who just recently took over Sandy Bourguignon's hair parlor on Route 9 in New Gretna. The business, called "Magic Shears" under Sandy, is now called "Hair To Please". Sandy stayed on to help Victoria.

Magic Shears on May 27, 2006
(Photo by Pete Stemmer)

Victoria asked me if I had any information regarding past businesses at her new location. I checked my computer files and was able to come up with some information on the property in the 1940's. It seems that Joe French operated a Variety Store and, later, an antique store in the building.

The only photo I have of Joe French's Store is of Ann Downs who lived across the street. The store, with two tall gas pumps out front, is in the background. Ann was the daughter of Levi and Ella Downs. She later married Win Salmons, an accomplished local artist. Many people in the area have Win's paintings in their homes.

Ann Downs, circa 1940's
(Photo courtesy of Tom Williams)

I also came across two advertisements from the 1940's that show that Joe French operated a Variety Store and an Antique Store in the building across the street from the Downs family Route 9 home.

Ad from a 1940's New Gretna Minstrel Show program

Hummmm! I wonder what Gent's Furnishing are?

Tuckerton Beacon ad - March 14, 1947

The only other thing that I know about Joe French is that his wife, Geraldine, married a widowed Otto Kalm after Joe's death. That would make her Dave Kalm's step-mom. Dave occasionally posts messages here at the Blog.

Otto Kalm and Geraldine French Kalm cut their wedding cake.
(Photo courtesy of Alston & Claire Kalm Allen)

I sure would like to know more about Joe French's store. I'm hoping that some of our readers out in the Blog-O-Sphere can tell us a few stories about Joe French and his store. Surely, Donald Maxwell who lived next door to Joe French's Store and Dave Kalm should be able to recall some memories. Clif Brown, out in California, should also be able to help. Let's hear from you guys!

Pete S


  1. The main thing I remember about the store was, I bought my paint there, to paint a garvey, my Dad had built for me. I can remember the paint would not mix, I took it back, Joe told me it was good paint for the price. He exchanged it, but what I got was worse, so I'm pretty sure that was my last transaction with Joe.

  2. I used to go to the Columbus Flea Marked with Joe, he could really sell the goods, from puzzles with pieces missing, to decks of cards with cards missing. I would feel guilty selling them, but Joe always said,They'll never notice. He was a great salesman. He sold everything from tar to marbles. And most of the time he didn't come back with many goods.

  3. Joe French found things on the town dump & sold them at the Flea Sale. He was known as an enterprising salesman, like his father before him. In Joe's youth he was best friends with Cliff Allen & Ted Sharp. The friendship came to a halt when Joe French's father called his mortage on Sharp's South Maple house. In those depression days $1750 was an unatainable fortune. Cliff Allen's first wife, Ella, stopped her friendship because of the money problems. Phyllis Briggs