Me and Turners Station Mercantile–A Mini-Memoir

By Jill Elsey-Stoner

Jill Elsey-Stoner and Candace Stoner
When I was growing up in my parents' house behind the store and post office in Turners, Missouri, one of my favorite things was returning empty pop bottles for cash. I rode a little red tricycle with an attached wagon and hauled my empty bottles down the driveway to the store. I used the refund money to buy candy.

Since kindergarten, I wanted to run the store—business name Turners Station Mercantile—that  has been in my family since
1889. My grandparents bought the property in 1918 and lived above the store. Fire destroyed the store in 1923, and they lost everything. They got out wearing only their nightclothes. Grandmother thought an oil rag she used to dust combusted spontaneously, although the cause was never determined. When they rebuilt in 1924 they built a two-story house behind the store, and that’s the house where I grew up.

Candace sorting sacks of feed
Sooner Rather Than Later
After I graduated from Drury University in 1994, I still expected to run the store, but much later in my life. However, my cousins who were operating the store decided to retire that year, and the timing was right for me. My daughter Candace started her own candy counter business in the store when she was seven years old. She helps run the business today and is the seventh generation of Turners.

Today, the store is much like it was when it was rebuilt after the fire. A couple of years after I took over I added self-service fountain drinks. Some old timers were upset that changed the old-fashioned atmosphere.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Happy Hour Desserts
For a while, I continued to sell feed out of a back room, like everyone before me, although we now custom-order feed for pick up. I had to convert the room to a dining area because my lunch customers were sitting on the floor, standing around the cooler, or going outside to their vehicles. We can seat approximately fifteen persons. Our customers are farmers, business people, politicians and tourists. Candace and I prepare orders at the deli counter for dine in or to go. For breakfast, we have biscuits and gravy as well as egg and cheese sandwiches with ham, bacon or sausage. Our lunch meals change every day and include sandwiches, soups, and salads. Happy hour for desserts is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with pie and coffee and take-out dinner those nights. We’re open six days and closed Sundays.

I enjoy interacting with customers. Everyday something good happens in ordinary conversations and random acts of kindness. I count my blessings for all the persons who come through here and touch my life.

Coming Up on 130 Years
In 1989, the centennial year of the store and post office, we started a potluck picnic on the west lawn, attended by 200 to 300 customers, friends and family. That continued annually for twenty-two years on the first Saturday after Labor Day, then every five years. The next picnic will be in 2019, our 130th anniversary. One of the challenges of having it annually is recovering from flooding of Turners Creek on the south and James River on the west. We will have water in the store, house and outbuildings. Inches, not feet. Still, when it happens, we pretty much have to get rid of everything and start over. It flooded four times in 2015. That seems to be happening more frequently now than when I was growing up.

Although a youth center, train depot, canning company and other businesses and buildings from the 1800s are gone, nearby Turner Cemetery, where some of my ancestors are buried, is another reminder of my heritage.

Turners is an unincorporated town approximately five miles east of Springfield. Turners Station Mercantile, a Greene County Historic Site, is believed to be the oldest store in Greene County. Top photo by Wayne Groner. Bottom photo by Jill Elsey-Stoner. More at http://turnersstation.simplesite.com/.

3 comments:

  1. Wayne, thanks for the story of our store and family.
    Jill

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  2. I will have to go visit. My wife and I love old stores like this. Great story!
    James Roderique

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  3. My mother, born in 1930, grew up in Turner's Station. She, Doris Welker, her sister Billie, and brother Duane are still living. When I first visited Turner in 1991 with my family of 5, we spoke to the owner. He remembered the Wallace and Wilma Welker family.

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