Around spring 2017, the Dollar General corporation expects to open a new store at the former location of McDonald’s ShopWorth.
Company spokesman Nolan Miles said the store is anticipated to employ six to 10 people. Among the items they plan to sell, he listed staples like milk, eggs and bread, as well as packaged, refrigerated and frozen foods, snacks, health and beauty items, cleaning supplies, basic apparel, housewares and seasonal items.
The building, which had housed the McDonald family’s store for more than 125 years, has been vacant since early this year.
Jake Singh, who began buying the property, store and inventory on contract from the McDonald family in 2014, sold the property to Standard Morgantown LLC in September.
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In preparation for rebuilding, the former grocery has been stripped to the bare bones, and last week, the little red building next to it was demolished.
Diana McDonald Biddle, daughter of former owner Jack McDonald, grows quiet as she talks about peeking into the empty store that played a central role in the lives of her entire family.
She remembers from her childhood when an addition was built in the early ’70s, and the concrete floor and block walls in that section were still bare. Bare again, they look very different now, she said.
“Everything is gone, and you just have this big, open, blank canvas,” she said.
From birthday parties to prom, almost every McDonald family photo was set at the store.
“I don’t think we have a single family picture taken at home, except on Christmas morning,” Biddle said.
The store was where Jack McDonald always was, Biddle said.
Shot after shot shows Jack and family with a cake in the background. The prom pictures, taken outside, feature his smiling children and even grandchildren.
As difficult as it was to get Jack McDonald away from the store, Biddle recalled one time he left it for something a family member loved.
Biddle’s brother, Jim McDonald, had loved trains since childhood. He had a train set in the basement that went from wall to wall.
When Jim McDonald got his dream job working for the railroad, the first time he passed through Helmsburg, Jack McDonald had his daughter drive him out to meet the train.
“We sat, and we waited, for the train to come by, so my dad could wave at him,” she said.
When Biddle speaks of family at McDonald’s — whether it was an IGA, a ShopWorth or simply McDonald’s Grocery — the names and generations she recalls are more than her own family’s.“We had one family that my dad employed three generations of their family,” she said.
Of another family, the Foxes, all 10 siblings worked at the store at different times, Biddle said.
“The Fox boys literally almost had a fistfight at my dad’s funeral over who was going to be a pallbearer,” Biddle said. In the end, they all took a place carrying Jack McDonald.
Francis “Max” Kritzer was the store’s meat cutter for more than 40 years, Biddle said.
He would readily correct anyone who mistakenly called him a “butcher,” according to his obituary.
His is one of many obituaries throughout the years that noted employment at the McDonald’s store among other life accomplishments.
In 1946, a newspaper advertisement lists McDonald’s Grocery as a place where radios could be dropped off for repair.
In 1959, McDonald’s was the place to get advance tickets for the state fair, and where residents could drop off presents for the Blue Birds to take to patients at the state hospital.
A 1969 article called it “the hub of Bean Blossom,” and according to a ledger at the Brown County (Nashville) Volunteer Fire Department, it was where that year’s supplies for the fish fry came from.
Throughout Biddle’s earliest memories, the store continued as a center of the community.
“Pretty much anybody who grew up around Bean Blossom in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, at some point in time, worked at the store,” Biddle said.
In many ways, the store and Jack McDonald were one, and few residents of Bean Blossom can talk about the store without mentioning him.
As time wore on, change came to Bean Blossom and to McDonald’s store, as it always had.Depending on which account is followed, Charles “Kess” McDonald started the family business when he traded a watch and a bicycle for two mules and a wagon. Alternatively, in a 1955 article, Henry “Hank” Swain had the trade down for two ponies, with the wagon purchased later to make use of the ponies.
Either way, the store traced its lineage through the McDonald family to at least 1891.
In 1955, Herb McDonald — Jack’s father and Kess’ son — told Swain that he didn’t see the huckster trade his father’s business had been built on going away anytime soon. He was joined in that estimation by Merril Moore, fellow huckster and proprietor of Merril Moore’s Gnawbone Grocery.
In 1963, the McDonalds moved the business from the red building at the corner of two state roads to the most recent building.
In 2014, with brother Mike McDonald deceased, and 18-hour, seven-day weeks taking their toll, the remaining McDonald siblings, Diana and Jim, made the tough decision to sell.
“Dad loved it. It was Dad’s world. He was married to my mom, but he was in love with the store,” Biddle said. “He always told my brothers and me, ‘If you find something that you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ And he’s right.”
When the whole family was there, when the store was the center of all their lives, it was something they loved, Biddle said. “But when Mike was gone and Mom was gone and Dad was gone — it was a lot of work.”
The siblings considered trying to hold out, but had hard realities to face, Biddle said.
“You can’t even buy a gallon of milk at wholesale for what the big box stores are selling it at retail,” she said.
Jack McDonald had funneled money into the store to keep it running in later years. Jim McDonald carried on that tradition, keeping it afloat with the Subway franchises he operated.
Like their father, neither sibling wanted to pressure their children to follow anything other than their dreams, and their own children had pursued lives far from the world of retail, Biddle said.
With the store now empty and rebuilding underway, Jack McDonald’s children are as much spectators as the rest of the community.
Yet, they remain hopeful spectators.
“Our family is excited for the future of the former store building, and how this business will fill a void left in our community,” Jim McDonald said.
McDonald said he hopes the community will embrace this new chapter and those willing to invest in Bean Blossom.
Biddle recalls her first crib as a shopping cart filled with fresh aprons and store linens. Even during the 10 years she pursued a career as an English teacher, she would come back to Bean Blossom to work the store in the summers.
Yet, looking into the emptiness of the store that was as much at the center of her life as it was Bean Blossom’s, she saw more than the past, she said.
“It didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would,” Biddle said. “Because I could see — I could see change. I could see the positive effects of what’s gonna be there.”