The storekeeper was one of the most visible and important persons in a small community such as Miltonsburg. In the course of a week at least one family member from each village household would likely be in his store several times and within a month he would also see most of the families in his market area. This market area would be self-defining as the maximum distance a person could conveniently travel on horseback or in a horse driven vehicle. Accepting this distance as about five miles, this farming community would consist of about eighty square miles or roughly 50,000 acres. Assuming the average farmstead as being 100 acres, his ideal market would include about 500 farms. With an average farm family of six persons, and a population of the village of 140, the Miltonsburg merchants would serve about 3000 men women and children. Until the early 1900s these customers would be shared by at least two village merchants.

No other person would have this much contact with the village and the surrounding community. For many of these persons, especially those in the farming community, the storekeeper was their slim, but only, contact with the outside world. The storekeeper would be their post master as well as, in many cases, their banker, and wholesaler. Nineteenth century store ledgers confirm that most customers kept a running bill which they would settle at the end of the month or whenever cash or barter goods acceptable to the storekeeper were available. In the earlier years it was fairly common for the customer to settle his bill by working at jobs related to the store or to the merchants other enterprises, which might include activities such as tobacco processing or clearing land in which the merchant had invested.

It was fairly common for the customer, especially those from the farming community, to come to the store with produce such as eggs and butter, and apply the wholesale of this produce as partial payment for the goods they purchased. In Miltonsburg, if the produce exceeded the purchases, the merchants would give the customer a token that could be used as money for future purchases in the store. In this system, the customer got a bit more purchasing power than cash and the storekeeper was assured that future business would be conducted at his store.

John Oblinger’s store on Lot 5 probably was the first major store in the village. Oblinger operated this store for about 20 years (c1855-1875) and was likely the most successful of all Miltonsburg merchants (See Lot 3). This store was later operated by Samuel Groux, B. A. Yunkes, and lastly by the Spangler Brothers. Its last year of operation was about 1935; therefore, this store was operated on Lot 5 for at least 70 years.

About 1870, the National Stove Company began operating the store on Lot 10. Perhaps the competition from this out-of-town owner contributed to Oblinger’s selling his store to Sam Groux about 1875. While internet research suggests that the National Stove Company still in business in 2007 may be the same company that operated this store, we have not been able to find information that would confirm this. Apparently Gramlich&Eberly purchased the store about 1880 and continued to operate it until 1915 when it was sold to Vance Slusher, who operated it until about 1930 when Charlie and Alma Hinderlong purchased it. In about 1950 they sold it to Roman Reischman and it continued under several different owners for a few more years before it was closed permanently.