Saturday, November 6, 2010
Blevins Store—the heart and soul of small town life
Once upon a time country stores were the heart and soul of small communities in rural Kentucky, but today the mom and pop stores are a dying breed.
In Bath County you can still find such an establishment still in operation today.
Blevins Store has been a Preston landmark for nearly 85 years. The merchandise and provisions offered have changed over time, but the store itself is an authentic piece of Bath County history. From its original wood floor to its bead board ceiling Blevins Store is the real deal.
It's the kind of old-time mom and pop establishment that people get nostalgic about.
At one time the store sold such staples as linens, dry goods, wash tubs, mops and brooms, laundry and cleaning supplies, dried goods, eggs, lard and sugar, anything rural folks would need to sustain them.
One of the main events of the day during those early years was when the number 22 train delivered the mail each evening.
While most country stores are only memories of yesterday, Blevins Store continues to be a place to meet, swap stories, talk politics, get a bologna sandwich and an ice cold Ale-8 .
Rube and Helen bought the store from Fred and Helen Miller sometime in the late 1960s and have operated the business for the past forty plus years. The post office is still located at the store and Helen, as in past years, continues to serve as Post Mistress.
The Blevins couple grew up in the little store they eventually bought and operate today.
“During the 1950s the store was the place for adults and teens to socialize”, Helen said. “During that time Arnold Miller and Frances Belcher operated the store and both men were very understanding, especially when it came to contending with loud teens and a scuffle or two.” The store is where Rube and I met and started dating”, Helen said.
Years later Rube and Helen married and became the parents of two children, Rhonda Blevins York and Jodie Blevins Ratliff. Both girls grew up in the store like their parents and continue to help during the stores busiest hours.
Preston Court Days has always been an extremely busy time for the Blevins family as hundreds of folks gather in the community to buy, sell and trade and to stop by the store for a cold drink and to visit with old friends.
Local residents and even those who have long since moved away, say the reason they have such fond memories of the store is because of the genuine kindness of Rube and Helen Blevins.
For Wilma Jones Stephens, the store was a one-of-a kind special place.
“I remember when it was Belchers store and Rube and Helen, Rhonda & Jodie lived across the road from us in Blevins Valley in a beautiful house that was always neat and clean. I have lots of good memories of the store and I know many others do as well. Someone should right a book or make a movie of this very special place and the owners who made it that way”, Stephens said. I am glad to have been there growing up on the best bologna and ale 8 in the country. Blevins Grocery was always the place to meet your school friends after school for a candy bar and Ale 8. I thought it was so cool to visit Helen in the post office located in a small room in the same building. Thanks Rube and Helen and the Belchers for making this one of a kind warm and safe place”.
A vintage Ale-8 cooler hugs the back wall and according to Rube, the signature Bath County Drink out sells any other item in the store.
During warm weather you’ll find several local and well known gentlemen on the front porch with whittling stick and pocket knife in hand, and lots of interesting stories are still told.
When the weather turns cold the old wood stove inside becomes the favored gathering place.
Rhonda remembers when she was a little girl she would wake up early to follow alongside her dad to open the store and get the fire going in the coal stove.
“I always loved going with dad to open the store and getting to sip hot chocolate huddled up close to the warm fire”, Rhonda said. “I love the store and all of the people who visit. Preston wouldn't be the same without it. Those who attend on a regular basis are like family”
Jodie remembers being intrigued with the colorful language used by some of the older folks when they discussed politics and listening to the local lore and history of her hometown.
“As soon as I stepped off the school bus I would run inside, slamming the old screen door to rush to the candy counter and then would head straight back to the Ale-8 machine, Jodie said. We didn’t have much growing up but we sure felt rich with so many wonderful and warm friends who were always at the store. We were all just one big family”.
In addition to two daughters Rube and Helen are the proud grandparents of Candace Clay Kimsey and have two great grandchildren; Preston, who was name after the city of Preston and Abigail Kimsey.
Sherrie Willoughby says her fondest memory is of meeting her grandfather at the store after school.
“My biggest memory was getting off the bus at the store. My papaw John would be sitting there whittling with all the others” Willoughby said. “Dad would let us go in and Rube would load us up with a brown bag full of candy and cold Ale8! Bologna was always my favorite sandwich and still is...I used to think it was so cool that Rube would cut it really thick for me! Those are such Great Memories”.
A treasure trove of memories that waxes nostalgic in the hearts of both young and old alike is what Blevins Store has become today. It was and is still a place where the community feels connected.
“I have always, and will always, treasure this store and all of the wonderful friends and family connected to it”, Kelly Ranvier Durham said.
Rhonda and Jodie said they have heard their parents say that many people are not impressed with the slow pace of life in small rural communities. “Our parents are quite satisfied with what they have and have no interest in the fast pace of life, their children said. “Success to our parents means something entirely different, and they say human difference is what makes the world go around. Our parents chose to stay close to what is most important to them; family, friends and the slower pace of life.”
What has made Rube and Helens world go around is the lasting friendships and all the memories they have made while operating Blevins Store in Preston.