Three Pennsylvania generations work at century-old general store in a changing America: 'A dying breed'

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At a small general store in a tiny Pennsylvania township, a husband and wife are worried they’re the last shopkeepers of their kind.

Centermoreland Grocery & Deli is a small, family-owned general store in the heart of its namesake town — Centermoreland, Pennsylvania. 

The store is owned by married couple Alan and Sharlene Weidner. Running a community shop that sticks to business practices it invented a century ago is difficult, but the duo has no plans to retire. 

And while the Weidners love it, they fear their historic shop won’t be protected after they’re gone.

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“There is still some mom-and-pop stores, they’re fighting to keep going. They are there…” Alan told Fox News Digital. “…but less and less.”

Store owners Alan and Sharlene Weidner stand in the center of their shop.

Store owners Alan and Sharlene Weidner stand in the center of their shop.
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

“I really hope somebody will keep it going as it is, but I have other people that want it and I think they’re going to want to change things, you know. They want to bring in their own businesses,” Alan said.

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Neighbors and other Centermoreland residents have donated dozens of historic photos, post cards, and advertisements depicting the Centermoreland store over the years. 

The Centermoreland Grocery and Deli has existed in the same place over the years.

The Centermoreland Grocery and Deli has existed in the same place over the years.
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

Thanks to its extended, well-documented history, the store has become something of a community touchstone.

A shoebox of pictures traces the life of the store from its beginnings as a post office to its renovation into a general store, all the way to the current day.

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One picture shows a crowd of dozens of people gathered outside the Centermoreland Store in early model automobiles. Another vintage snapshot depicts a horse and buggy waiting outside.

Locals gather outside the building currently occupied by the Centermoreland Grocery and Deli, year unknown. The original photograph is held by the Weidners and was gifted by a member of the community.

Locals gather outside the building currently occupied by the Centermoreland Grocery and Deli, year unknown. The original photograph is held by the Weidners and was gifted by a member of the community.
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

It has been the Weidners’ mission to do the surrounding area justice with not only what they sell, but the feelings they evoke in their customers. 

The deli’s extensive food offerings are all made in-house and sold at low profit margins — reminiscent of the cheap, locally-made food Sharlene says she misses from community church events and fire department potlucks that have become increasingly rare.

The store is filled to the brim with vintage memorabilia of small town American life, from a Radio Flyer wagon to the fixed-gear bike Sharlene rode as a child.

A vintage postcard from Centermoreland, Pennsylvania. The original postcard is owned by the Weidners. Year unknown.

A vintage postcard from Centermoreland, Pennsylvania. The original postcard is owned by the Weidners. Year unknown.
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

Sharlene told Fox News Digital that she doubts younger generations will have the appreciation to keep the store going after her tenure running it, but says it’s not surprising.

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“Even when my parents passed away, we had antiquers come in and look at some of their stuff, and they said it’s a dying breed because people just don’t appreciate these things anymore,” Sharlene said, gesturing to the museum of vintage Americana on the walls.

However, the younger generation working alongside the Weidners is more optimistic.

Timothy Davenport, 18, works in the store deli after he finishes his high school classes in the afternoon.

Timothy Davenport, 18, works in the store deli after he finishes his high school classes in the afternoon.
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

Timothy Davenport is the grandson of Alan and Sharlene. The day that Fox News Digital visited the store was his 18th birthday, and he was behind the deli counter slicing cuts.

“I love all this. I love coming in here and just learning about all the old stuff — like the axles and the beehive,” he says, smiling and pointing up above him to an old, abandoned beehive the size of a basketball held in a pair of mounted deer antlers. 

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“But you got other people who just come in — like, my age — just come in and don’t really look at any of it,” he said. “So I would definitely say it’s a little bit of a mixed bag with my generation.”

Centermoreland Grocery and Deli still uses the buildings vintage cooler room.

Centermoreland Grocery and Deli still uses the buildings vintage cooler room.
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

Davenport works mostly in the deli and runs the counter solo on his shift. He is currently enrolled in a cooperative education program that allows him to attend class in the morning and work with his grandparents in the afternoon.

“I would say I started this summer […] but I [actually] started a little bit earlier than that, always helping out whenever I could,” Davenport explains. “When I was younger, I always used to make the pizzas. Like when I was — I want to say like middle schoolish — I was starting to make the pizzas and everything, and then it just came to me, working here and I got into the deli. I like doing it, it’s fun — communicating with all the people.”

Davenport is interested in becoming a mechanic, and is working at the store while getting the necessary training for the field. He did not rule out the possibility of taking up the store when his grandparents retire, but is focusing on the present instead of a hypothetical future.

The only employee in the store who is not a blood relative to the Weidners is Alicia Sickler, 29. She stills calls them “Grandpa” and “Grandma,” though.

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“I grew up down the street. My grandad used to come here to get coffee at least four or five times a day,” Alicia said. Her grandfather worked in concrete and regularly worked on the store. 

Alicia Sickler, 29, is not related to Alan and Sharlene Weidner, but still calls them her grandparents.

Alicia Sickler, 29, is not related to Alan and Sharlene Weidner, but still calls them her grandparents.
(Timothy Harley Jude Nerozzi)

“We never charged him a penny,” Alan interjected. Alicia and Alan both laughed.

“Out here it’s a little more of an old soul vibe. People are a little bit more into maintaining things like this and putting in the effort, but it’s getting harder for sure,” Sickler told Fox News Digital. 

This modest kitchen behind the store is where Alan and Sharlene Weidner make homemade food for the shop every day. 

This modest kitchen behind the store is where Alan and Sharlene Weidner make homemade food for the shop every day. 
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

She said she believes the area, and much of rural America, was shaped by a mentality that has all but dissipated.

When asked about the future of the store, Sickler is more optimistic than her employers, though she has no delusions of how taxing an operation like the deli can be.

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“My grandad’s driving force every day was ‘My dad never told me I’d be good enough. I never had anything.’ And you can’t replace that,” Sickler said. “It’s not necessarily a good thing that we want to pass on, but there’s that hard-working mentality that came from that.”

Vintage photograph of Centermoreland. The building that currently houses the Centermoreland Grocery and Deli is on the right. Year unknown.

Vintage photograph of Centermoreland. The building that currently houses the Centermoreland Grocery and Deli is on the right. Year unknown.
(Timothy Nerozzi/Fox News Digital)

She concluded, “I guess I’m really lucky to have caught the tail end of it.”

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