A few weeks ago, I learned about Williamsburg Produce Co., a business that was part-grocery store, part-feed store, and gathering place for Williamsburg locals.
Last week, I got to spend a fun afternoon at Guy & Mae’s Tavern with a group of longtime Williamsburg-area residents who, between laughs and tales of their childhood shenanigans (which I agreed to keep to myself), relayed their memories of the Williamsburg Produce Co., as well as what it was like to live in Williamsburg during those times.
To Elston “Dee” Horne; his mother, Kathryn Horne; Fran Bennett, Carolyn Trimble and Norma Steward: thank you for your time!
Dee Horne told me previously that his grandfather, J.E. Decker, and great-grandfather started Williamsburg Produce Co. in the late 1930s.
It was a place, Horne said, where farmers could do a little bit of everything: buy cream and eggs or some seasonal produce, pick up their feed and, of course, socialize.
Depending on the time of year, you could find things like apples, potatoes, tomato and pepper plants and even boxes of baby chicks at Williamsburg Produce Co.
The group told me more about the egg room and candling of the eggs (a process of illuminating the interior of an egg to determine whether it was fertilized). Trimble recalled a metal scale shaped like an egg that would measure small, medium and large eggs.
Fun fact: The cooler used in the egg room section of Williamsburg Produce Co. now sits in use at Guy & Mae’s Tavern!
Steward said her mother-in-law used to bring in cream and eggs, and they would buy chicken feed, making dresses from the cloth feed sacks.
In the wintertime, locals could be seen playing checkers at Williamsburg Produce Co., Bennett said, as it was one of a few neighborhood checkers spots. Trimble added that the late Arza Fogle, a state and international checkers champion, played there.
Kathryn Horne said she spent about half of her time in the shop, helping out by cleaning shelves, sweeping the floors or writing tickets.
Dee Horne said the business was sold around 1969 to the Moyer family, who operated it for about a year before the co-op bought it out. The building later housed a garage for a few years, and a fire destroyed the eastern side of the structure around 1990, he said.
About two or three years ago, Ken Hagenback, a local artist who retired from Hallmark, added a colorful set of paintings that grace the building today, Horne said.