by Bruce Nelson
If you’ve lived in Easton for any length of time, Greiser’s is likely the first name that comes to mind when you think about the proverbial old-fashioned general store. It has all the right ingredients to indicate a long life of serving the community. There’s the old post office on the east end of the building; the recently refurbished combination coffee shop, deli, and old fashioned country store, along with a very eclectic antique shop that reflects Easton’s past with its interesting selection of antiquities on the west side; and on the outside, there’s even a set of gasoline pumps where you can fill up the SUV while soaking up much the same bucolic atmosphere as your great grandparents would have encountered a hundred years ago. But just how long has this little piece of Easton’s past been around?
The short answer: a very long time!
The present building housing the post office and Greiser’s began life as two separate structures, both of which housed independently operated stores in their earlier days. The side holding the present post office was likely built somewhere around 1740 – build dates on structures of that era are almost never exact, they’re more educated guesses based on land transfers, deeds, wills, and a good deal of local oral history. The first owner was Stephen Wheeler, followed by members of the Seeley and Edwards families. That structure became known as the East Store after another building was constructed sometime around 1800 by David Turney a few yards to the west. The newer building soon became known as the West Store. That building was later sold to Anson Ryan who also operated a grist mill on the pond that sat to the south of both stores.
Selleck N. Osborn was born in 1832. In 1850 he was working as a shoemaker for Burr Bennett in his shop just to the north of the Center School on Westport Road. By 1860 he had become a fairly successful farmer, but farming was a hard life at best and Selleck decided hire some help to manage the farm while he began a new, slightly less physically demanding career as a merchant when he first purchased the East Store.
Unlike today’s Easton, there were many merchants who mostly served only the immediate area around their store in the mid-nineteenth century. When the opportunity presented itself in 1868, Selleck took over the position of Easton’s postmaster and moved the post office from the northern side of Center Road into the East Store. He earned a modest $50 that first year for handling the mail but having the post office in his store meant folks retrieving their mail would have to walk right by his merchandise. Increased business by 1870 allowed Mr. Osborn to purchase the nearby West Store and shortly there-after he moved it a few yards east and connected it to the older East Store to form the building we know today.
Osborn’s store became the hub of the center district and it survived even as Bennett’s bookmaking business, and the old grist mill faded into history. The store sold groceries, dry goods, feed and grain. Selleck Osborn – postmaster, deputy sheriff, and merchant – ran his business for over thirty years. When he passed away in 1901, his son Henry took it over and managed it until 1921. After over a sixty-year run, the business finally changed hands.
The Ruman brothers were the sons of Czechoslovakian immigrants. During the last years of the nineteenth century and well into the beginning of the twentieth, Easton saw a large influx of eastern European farmers who had fled their native land looking for a better life in America.
The Ruman Brothers store pictured above would serve both the new and the old residents of Easton for several years. By the early 1920’s the country store at the intersection of Center and Westport Roads was selling gasoline and tires. A large sign over the porch advertised the business as a Goodyear Service Station.
The next family to own the business was headed by Arthur R. Greiser who purchased the property from an aging Henry Osborn in 1926. Arthur and his wife Leontina ran the store and eventually moved into the house just to the east of the building. Their eldest son, Richard, came into the business and became the postmaster. Bringing in the third generation, Arthur’s grandson Richard eventually took over the operation later in the century and today still operates the antique store and gasoline pumps.
The main part of the original store has seen a recent renovation that fully keeps it within the character of the building as it has transitioned into gathering place where locals can still chat over a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee while enjoying a light breakfast or lunch. New coffee shop, deli and store owner, Adrienne Burke, has successfully managed to maintain the wonderful historical atmosphere of Easton’s oldest continued use commercial building.
So, now you know when you think country store, why you likely automatically think, Greiser’s. May it live on another 300 years!
BRUCE NELSON, WHO GREW UP IN EASTON, IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH FOR THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF EASTON