- Special Sections
- Public Notices
LEOPOLD - Ernest and Myrtle Guillaume hung their family name in front of Leopold's country store 50 years ago. Their two daughters, working in the same store, are marking the anniversary this week by welcoming customers and reminiscing about five decades of tending to the needs of the community.
"Guillaume's," is the greeting callers hear when telephoning the store and the business is a hub of not only commerce but news within the community. The store sells sodas, chips, sandwiches and grocery items. But Guillaume's remains the stereotypical country store, offering a little bit of just about everything.
A pump outside offers gasoline and there are salt blocks stacked nearby for livestock. Shelves offer 2-cycle oil, brooms and cleaning supplies.
"People who step inside for the first time tell us it has everything a country store should. They tell us not to change anything," Judy Edwards says. She and big sister Beverly Guillaume own the business today. They aren't getting rich but they serve their community in many of the same ways their parents did from the day the couple, the two young girls and their infant brother, John, moved in.
"We were open every day but Christmas but people knew they could stop by and Mom or Dad would open the store for them," Beverly said.
Ernest died in 1996 and Myrtle in 2003. The siblings carry on the tradition, still selling everyday items people need. Years ago, several companies selling small quantities of nails, screws and other hardware vied for business among the nation's country stores. They're nearly all gone, as are many small stores.
Since taking over the business from their parents in 1992, other community stores have closed. But Guillaume's doors remain open. A buzzer sounds with each open and close, a modern convenience, but the floors and shelves look much the same.
"Back when we were kids, we had large bins with flour, sugar and dried beans. They're gone, but a lot of it hasn't changed much," Judy adds. The Guillaumes were among the first in the area to have a television and Ernest decided the store, not the family's living room in the adjacent home, was the best place for the set. Locals would come in and watch programs, chat and leave with essentials.
The country store, where history and friendliness don't come with a price tag, will mark the 50-year milestone with a customer-appreciation event Saturday.
Beginning at 5 p.m. there will be free hot dogs, chips and soft drinks in the town park, just a few steps from the store. There will also be music and in-store specials. Fans of the store can purchase 50-year T shirts with an image of the store on front.
On the back are the first names of the Guillaumes: Ernest, Myrtle, Beverly, Judy and John.