Driving down the road the powdery snow looked like sand art as the wind blew the layered mounds into artistic formations. The drifting carried out onto the roads, creating striped patches of black asphalt and white silk. The wind was so cold it would take your breath away. When we parked I hastily ran into the building through the chilling gusts to be greeted with the warmth of an old-fashioned general store that has stood the test of time.
I was welcomed by a cast iron wood heater next to a hub of tables at the entrance. It was an open room with so many treasures you didn’t know where to look first. I quickly forgot about my frozen limbs and began browsing.
Everything looked valuable the way it was displayed: the Wanamaker t-shirts folded perfectly in wooden crates, the seed packets on shallow shelving with handwritten labels, and penny candy in pristine glass jars. Even the coffee station was complete with a piece of slate under the creamers with chalk delineating the 1/2 & 1/2 and milk. Everything in the store seemed to be done with such care.
This charming shop is the Wanamakers General Store which is nestled in Kempton, PA (about eleven miles north of Kutztown). The store is a family owned old-fashioned general store offering everyday goods including local, organic, and gluten-free products, bulk items (bulking done on premises), hot coffee and tea, and a deli complete with a seating area.
They also stock live bait. Further, they have a small toy department and local arts/crafts such as the hex signs done by Eric Claypoole.
Since the store is located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, many of Claypoole’s hex signs can be seen around the shop. And, of course, Wanamakers offered fasnachts on Fat Tuesday per PA Dutch tradition! Some other traditional PA Dutch treats the store readily has available include: red beet eggs, sauerkraut, and apple snitz.
THE INSIDE SCOOP
I traveled to Wanamakers on this cold February afternoon to meet with Kyra Hendricks, manager and part owner. I also had the pleasure to see little Sneakers, Kyra’s pup, who can sometimes be spotted in the backroom behind the register.
Kyra is very passionate about her general store. It was obvious from our conversation. She briefed me on her history with Wanamakers – being a cashier and years later coming back as manager and now part owner. She smiled telling me about how cell phone service is hard to come by in the entire store which often prompts conversations among customers. She also spoke of some regulars like “The Morning Daves” – a group of gentlemen all named Dave who congregate in the morning over coffee.
Kyra went on to tell me more of the store’s long history. Below is a brief timeline of the Wanamakers General Store’s family ownership over the years:
Many may not notice, but Wanamakers General Store has its own small museum. The Hungaski family pays homage to all the previous owners of the building throughout the shop. This includes: page long biographies hung throughout the store about each family, tiny exhibits of old paperwork such as school reports, and lastly a leather photo album of pictures collected over the decades of the store’s existence along with framed articles in the new deli seating area.
THE NEW DELI SEATING
Wanamakers just opened this new deli seating area. It can accommodate sixteen people. The juxtaposition of the space is fantastic! The checkered black and white tiled floor with retro vibrant mismatched furniture makes it a quirky and fun area to sit back, relax, and eat!
Speaking of eating, for lunch at Wanamakers I got The Hot Mess Wrap after reading raving reviews online. This is a warm wrap with the following: chicken, cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing.
The most popular sandwich though, per Kyra, is the Strawberry Chicken Wrap (chicken, strawberries, feta, spring mix and a special creamy balsamic dressing) . This is a seasonal special and is offered on the store’s anniversary on March 17th until the end of spring.
For a beverage, I got an apple mint Pure Wild Tea by Sherry Fuhrmann. Wanamakers carries this tea with only a handful of others. The tea grows wild in Berks County PA. It is “pure” due to its simple ingredients with no preservatives or additives.
This new deli seating area is also BYOB! Can you imagine a warm spring afternoon with a fruity shandy and strawberry wrap? I sure can! Plus there is a distillery called Eight Oaks Craft Distillers a mere ten minutes away in New Tripoli.
Speaking of warm spring afternoons, Wanamakers General Store is a great pit stop for a day of adventure as there are many great attractions nearby for a Lehigh Valley staycation!
Here’s a list of activities just around the bend:
- WK&S Steam Railroad (stops at Wanamakers on summer weekends);
- Leaser Lake Boats;
- Bikes & Bait;
- Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary; and
- The Country Seat.
So if you are looking to escape to a peaceful town with a lot of charm, friendly folks, great local products, and some delectable sandwiches – head to Wanamakers General Store and dig into some adventure!