By: Sherri Love
The Ashland Beacon
Stepping into Bryson’s General Store is like taking your mind on a visit back in time.
Bonnie Bryson, of South Shore, along with her two siblings Bob (Shag) Bryson, also of South Shore and Becky Carr of Indianapolis are third generation owners of the Bryson General Store that was established in 1910. Bryson's has been a staple in the Shultz Creek, South Shore area.
In the past, it was where everyone would meet and congregate on the front porch, take a walk to buy a Coke and a snack; it is where residents would get groceries and sacks of feed, and where most got their mail, because the local post office was located inside the store.
Although it isn’t used anymore, the post office is still fully intact as it was in the ‘50s and ‘60s, with the original 1967 phone book still on the counter and a 1969 calendar hanging on the wall.
Nowadays, Bryson’s is still a place where people from the area meet up on Saturdays for morning coffee and congregate, listen to music, reminisce about old times, share stories and have many unplanned reunions with old friends.
“There was a need, kind of a hunger for a place where people could come back to
where they felt at home in the area. There wasn't a lot for children to do around here when we were young, so children would hang out here on the front porch,” Bryson said. “So many people have moved away, and the area has changed, but this is a place from their past that they can relate to and come back home to visit.
Bryson explained that was the main reason she keeps the store going.
“My favorite thing is the people you see and meet every Saturday, you never know who is going to stop in and what stories will be shared,” said Bryson.
Bryson's father, Jim, died in 2002, and her mother Gladys died in 2012. She and her siblings always had careers of their own but wanted to keep the tradition and heritage alive with the store. The three siblings decided to keep it open, but only on Saturdays. Bonnie is the primary person in charge and decided to keep it a general store. The store has a large selection of Lodge cast iron cookware, Susan Lundergan hand-painted Stoneware, Liberty overalls work wear, old fashioned candies, but they no longer carry nonperishable items. She also decided to make it more of an area museum to pay tribute to the history of the area and their family as a place to share pictures and memorabilia that tell stories of the past.
There are collections on display, such as vintage Aladdin lamps courtesy of Georgia Smith of Rattlesnake Hollow, and original oil paintings by the late Robert Learned Hand. Bryson has vintage dresses on display that her mother made for her when she was a little girl out of feed sack material and tells the story of how this was common and what they had to do back in the day. The store also features a large area showcasing the history of McKell High School, full of pictures, yearbooks, game balls, sports programs and original trophy cases full of awards from the school. The school no longer exists, and this is the largest collection of its history. McKell Bulldog T-shirts can also be purchased at the store. There are hundreds of photos from the past to look through.
There are several couches and chairs along the main aisle, so there’s always room to sit and listen to the live entertainment on the third Saturday of every month. A friend of the family, Carol Jayne Wagner came up with the idea to invite local pickers to set up and sing when they were planning their 100th anniversary celebration. “Everyone enjoyed it so much, we decided to do it on the third Saturday of every month. We never know who will be coming to play but we always have 15-20 pickers and 30-50 lookers, as we like to call them. who just like to sit and listen to the music,” said Wagner. Bryson’s doesn’t sell food but always have free food available for their guests on the third Saturday of the month, and this week, they were serving up delicious lasagna.
Janet Shepherd, 87 of South Shore, brought her daughter Barbara from Grand Rapids, Michigan into Bryson's Country Store for the first time. "This is amazing and brings back so many great memories. Bonnie and I played softball together 50 years ago on the field across the street," said Shepherd. Shepherd's daughter, Barbara was excited to purchase a McKell Bulldogs T-shirt. She hasn’t had a T-shirt from her high school since she went to school there.
Bryson’s General Store is located at 2378 State Route 784 in South Shore, and is open Saturdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and music by local pickers starts around noon on the third Saturday of every month. Visit their Facebook page for more information about the store and upcoming events.