NORTH COHOCTON — After the store had closed down in 2008 there was a big auction that would change everything.
Ed Garrigues of Cohocton wound up purchasing a lot of what was left behind including the political benches and wagon wheels.
In 2011 there were talks of demolishing the store, and this would bring in two local cousins with fond memories to rescue it … Jim Conrad and Jack Bolster.
“We found out about Ed and he gave us a good deal on the benches and wagon wheels,” Conrad said. “Realistically we didn’t want to buy the store without them. They are a part of the store.”
“When we first walked into the store there was a lot of water damage, and we knew it was a big project to take on,” Conrad continued. “My wife (Louise Conrad) and I grew up here, so we couldn’t let them tear down the store.”
Conrad said it was hard to get anything done in the store due to the community coming in and out of it asking lots of questions.
The cousins saved the store in 2011 and owned it until 2015 when the Wells Family bought it.
“We had no reason buying a store here since we were moving to Colorado to be close to our grandchildren,” Conrad said. “Jeff (Wells) saved us and took over the store in 2015. It is nice to come back to the country store.”
The Conrad’s and the Wells met for the first time face to face on Sept. 1. Genesee Country Express was invited down to get the exclusive story on the benches.
Conrad said he was surprised how well preserved things were, and how he used five different barns to replace the wood ceiling upstairs.
“We fought a months worth of pigeons, fixed all the windows, scrapped the floors on our hands and knees, but we were very proud when it was done,” he said. “Jack was always my hero growing up, so the best part about it for me was spending time with him. We saved the store together, and worked on a tight budget. Our biggest thing was cleaning it out.”
“When you buy an old store you think it is going to be loaded with antiques, but there was just junk in the basement,” Conrad said. “People were dumpster diving when we threw things out, but they didn’t find much.”
Conrad said the best part about the store was reconnecting with his beloved cousin.
“That took a lot of soul searching,” he said. “Jack and I realized at the end of the day it was about saving the store for the town.”
Conrad took the benches back to Colorado in hopes of keeping a small piece of the store alive.
Wells said that he and his daughters had to work on getting them shipped back to the store, and contacted a contractor from U-Ship. It was under $500 to have them taken back to Olde Country Store.
Henry Wolfanger was the owner to purchase the chairs from a church in New England. The words Democrat and Republican were painted on in gold as a way to have a meet and greet in front of the store.
“There was a lot of focus on politics back then, and people would gather here to talk,” Conrad said. “It is going to be fun to come back home, and revisit our benches. I am glad Jeff is moving forward with the store.”
Wells said it means the world to have these historic benches back where they belong.
“These benches are iconic. They are an important part of the history of this store,” he said. “They are as much a part of the store as the front door.”