by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
As often happens, this week’s article leaves me with more questions than answers. Last week I told you that I have been perusing copies of The Oak Grove Banner from 100 years ago, specifically looking at the Grain Valley News page. Other than two or three news stories and the weekly “gossip,” (oops!, I mean society news) there are the advertisements, usually from the same few businesses.
One of those regular advertisements featured The Grain Valley Merc. Co
So here are my questions? What is a mercantile as opposed to the general stores in Grain Valley? Who owned the business? Where was the business located? What were the business hours?
The definition of a mercantile is “a place of business for retailing goods, outlet, retail store, sales outlet, country store, general store, trading post – a retail store serving a sparsely populated region; usually stocked with a wide variety of merchandise". The advertisements I read certainly fit that description as the store was peddling everything from food and clothing to tobacco and sheep powder.
As noted at the top of the advertisement “We buy for cash. We sell for cash,” a mercantile is concerned with the exchange of goods for profit while a retail store is for the sale of goods and services. Therefore, we can presume that the owner bought goods from the locals to resale at the business. One of the advertisements mentioned fresh eggs AND baby chickens for sale! Again, we must presume they were from a local farmer.
The only clue I found as to who might have owned the business was the business directory for 1922. It does not mention a mercantile, so we’ll go with a general store. Was it J. W. Minter, W. H. Gowin, H. E. Gregg or A. M. Frost who placed the weekly advertisement?
I looked at several maps of Grain Valley from 1904 through 1924, but they were inconclusive as to the possible location of the mercantile. J. W. Minter did become an owner in the Cannon Mercantile south of the railroad on the west side of Main Street, but that is the only information I found. As for the regular business hours, your guess is as good as mine!
My father’s family moved to Grain Valley in the summer of 1922. Why didn’t I ask him more about the town they came to and the business they found?
Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society