Whitehall celebrates 200 years | News, sports, jobs

Ranger photo by TYLER RUPERT
Whitehall Store 200 years after it was built on State Route 655 between Belleville and Allensville.

BELLEVILLE – The Whitehall Store was built and established by the original owner, John Lantz, in the summer of 1822. It is estimated that it opened in late June or early July through stories passed on through the families who also owned the store as research completed by the Kishacoquilas Valley Historical Society .

There were a total of 27 different owners of the store over the course of 200 years, and the historical society was able to compile a chronological list for each one even though not all dates could be found in the records. After Lantz, the store was owned by Shirk, Hartzler, Henry Cosgrove, George Patton, John Philips, Benjamin Groff, John Peachey, John Hibler, William Flemming, and then John McNabb. John McNabb partnered with James Fleming in 1873 and in 1883 Fleming became the sole proprietor, changing the name to Whitehall General Store and also becoming the postmaster when the government mail system was established. Fleming sold the store to Jonas Yoder in 1893 who then sold the store to John Yoder on an unknown date. The next owner was Robert Goss from 1907 until 1928. Samuel Yoder Sr. owned the shop from 1928 until 1945, Oliver Beachy from 1945 to 1957 and Elmer Yoder from 1957 to 1963.

Until July 7, 1964, the store was sold only as a business and each owner rented from the owner of the property as there was a house above the store. Since Elmer Yoder purchased the store’s property from the Harry Davis Fleming Estate in 1964, the building and the business have been sold together.

Leonard and Robbie Yoder owned the store from 1964 to 1973, David and Matty Yoder from 1973 to 1974, Samuel and Edith Gleick from 1974 to 1986, Mark Martin from 1986 to 1988, and Ken and Nancy Welland from 1988 to 1992 , Harvey and Nancy Yoder from 1992 to 1999, Bonnie and Donald Beshey from 1999 to 2013 and John and Sharon Bayler from 2013 to 2021.

Until the 1950s, there was a watering basin across the road from the store where travelers and community members could water their horses and dogs. Once cars become a travel option, people will fill their radiators there as well. Trough was the actual town square where people used to gather to share local, state, and national news until its removal. From 1883, when Fleming became postmaster, until 1927 when rural deliveries began, the store also housed the post office. The mail slot can still be seen on the front porch wall. The store once housed a gas pump and also provided fuel for lanterns used by the local Amish community. According to the staff, there was once a belly stove that served as the primary source of heat during the colder months which provided warmth to the workers and there was a bench beside it to allow patrons to keep warm as well. The shop is only painted red and the current shutters are rumored to be original.

According to the results of the research of the Historical Society, in the early years of the store, there were two ways to pay for purchases. One way was obviously money but the second was actually the exchange of goods. A nearby Indian tribe was exchanging furs and blankets for shop materials. Local farmers would replace eggs with sugar and other dry goods. In the 200 years of the Whitehall store’s life, there have only been two years in which it has not been in business.

The newest owner of the Whitehall store on Route 655 outside Belleville is Andrew Zuk and his wife, Alicia. Zooks acquired the site on July 1, 2021 and currently has 17 part-time employees. What prompted him to buy the store, Zuck said, was that when he married Alicia ten years ago, he told her he was interested in buying it but when he went to make the purchase, it had already been sold without his knowledge. After some investigation, Zuke realized that the new owner was his cousin John Byler. Zuk managed to make an acceptable offer to his cousin and get the job.

The Zoox family has three children and the eldest helps them in the store. Open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 7 am to 5 pm. Some of the current products available are hoagies, sandwiches, deli, household items, meats, frozen vegetables, groceries, local baked goods, Kish Valley soaps, toys, souvenirs, bulk foods, and barbecue seasoning. They also have supplies for making sausage and bolognese, honey myrtle, loose sausages from the Brennemann meat market in Huntingdon and moon pies, mini pies and fried pies from local purveyors. Wednesday is a sub-day of meatballs and Zuke holds chicken barbecues quite often and advertises them on Facebook.

In the future, Zook plans to add more hot sandwiches, fresh meat, and ice cream.

Saturday, June 25, the store will operate at normal business hours, but there will also be a Customer Appreciation Day celebration and a six-foot cutting party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be prizes, discounts and special deals on certain products.

Zuk said he learned through stories, “The road was a lot lower, in fact, before the road was built, I was able to sit on the porch and hang your feet out of the way.”

He also said that original owner John Lantz is still resting on the family cemetery plot less than a mile down Cemetery Road.

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