Front Page News Article done by Athens Messenger
Historic grocery store reopens as The Woodn Rocker Antiques
By Larry Di Giovanni Messenger Staff Journalist May 4, 2017
Gary Billiter and fiancee Laurie Burch offer Amish bulked foods at new store
Messenger photo by Larry Di Giovanni
Gary Billiter and fiancee Laurie Burch offer customers shelves of Amish bulk food items at their new store in Coolville, The Woodn Rocker Antiques, ranging from steel-cut oats, lentils and unbleached flour to snack food and candies such as banana chips and “Peanut Butter Monkey Crunch.”
Antiques are main sale items at The Woodn Rocker Antiques in Coolville
Gary Billiter and fiancee Laurie Burch sell a large assortment of antiques, from furniture to tea cups, at their new store in Coolville, The Woodn Rocker Antiques. A grand opening is planned for May 27.
The Woodn Rocker Antiques is situated at 26420 Main St. in Coolville, the historic Roots Grocery building
Messenger photo by Larry Di Giovanni
The Woodn Rocker Antiques at 26420 Main St. in Coolville is located inside an historic building that formerly housed Roots Grocery store for 40 years, and before that, the O.F. Sarson Store and its general merchandise going back more than 100 years.
COOLVILLE — The historic Roots Grocery store in Coolville that operated for 40 years before closing shop in July 2002 was re-purposed years later as a thrift store and then recently as a gun shop. It closed again a little more than a year ago until a new business emerged April 21.
Gary Billiter and fiancée Laurie Burch have reopened the inviting store at 26420 Main St. under its new name, The Woodn Rocker Antiques. The store, which will host a grand opening May 27, features antiques, Amish bulk foods, homemade candles and other collectible items.
A large inventory of antiques range from Fenton glass figurines such as rabbits and a faded pink elephant to a hand-made cabinet built in 1864 that found a home for many years in Belpre — to a rare doll made in Germany that was predecessor to modern Barbie dolls. She is a bona-fide Bild Lilli doll, and this particular version was apparently a top seller in Hong Kong.
The Woodn Rocker Antiques also features shelves stocked full of Amish-made bulk foods that come by way of Dutch Valley Foods of Pennsylvania. There is onion soup mix, steel-cut oats, white rice flour and unbleached flour, brown flaxseed, organic navy beans, split peas, and lentils just to name some bulk food items as well as spices.
“For anyone who bakes, this is the place,” Billiter said.
So far, the most popular bulk food has been candy and snack food — saltwater taffy, banana chips, roasted and salted pumpkin seeds, Clark coconut crunch and a multitude of others sweets and snacks.
“That’s peanut butter monkey crunch,” Burch said, pointing to one of her favorites. “It’s so good.”
A nice-sized bag of monkey crunch sells for less than $3, which seems surprising. But Billiter and Burch are able to keep prices low by buying in bulk and stocking on their shelves. Bulk food is interspersed with antiques such as a gas-stove in one large room to give the place an old country store feel. The store retains its original wooden floors and hand-hewed wooden posts.
Billiter and Burch have help running the store from Burch’s parents, Tom and Linda Todd, who are natives of Coolville. Burch and her mother make and sell homemade candles. Billiter moved to the area several years ago from Paden County, West Virginia.
“This is all a family-run business,” he said. “Our roots are here.”
Billiter and Burch have researched the history of the former Roots Grocery, a nice conversation maker for customers who appreciate local origin stories. At least as far back as 1914, and perhaps earlier, the building was known as the O.F. Sarson Store and sold general merchandise. Its location at Main and Seventh streets gives it another fascinating historical item to ponder.
“The store has a basement with an underground tunnel system that crosses the street to where the old park is at,” said Billiter, who is a member of the Coolville Town Council. “This is unconfirmed, but this was probably part of the Underground Railroad.”
Billiter said the upstairs floor of the former Roots Grocery is unoccupied. If The Woodn Rocker Antiques succeeds, he hopes to open the upper floor and make an offer to purchase the building, which the Athens County Auditor’s Office appraised at just under $25,000.
Current hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.