Friday, July 16, 2010

Piper's Grocery

Joseph Lincoln Piper and his wife came to Iowa from Illinois about 1890 and settled on a farm near Clio.  Soon after this he bought a general store in Oakley and began a lifelong career as a Lucas County merchant.  Several days a week he drove a huckster wagon, selling groceries and other merchandise to farm families near Oakley.
     When his brother Rob came to work for him, Joe L. went to work part of each week for the railway mail service.  (In 1978, we have no passenger service to Chariton, but many freight trains).  Then, Mr. Piper got on the north branch of the C.B. & Q. (now the Burlington Northern) at Oakley, rode to Chariton, took a passenger train to Chicago where he boarded the mail coach on the train to Omaha, working the mail on the way.  He then rode the mail car on the passenger train bound for Chariton and then home to Oakley on the North Branch.
     In 1900, Joe L. sold the Oakley store and moved his family to Chariton to 1118 Ashland, which was the family home until Mrs. Piper's last illness.  He and his brother, Rob, opened a grocery in the north part of the Hollinger building on North Main and Joe L. continued part time in the mail service.
     In 1903, he bought the Stanley building at the east end of the north side of the square, going into business on his own again.  Piper's Grocery and Market is still active in the same location at this time.
     In a few years time he had bought land for feeding cattle and had built his own slaughterhouse.  He opened a bakery, which specialized in fine pastries, as well as a variety of breads.  He shipped bread by train to Melrose, Derby, Humeston, Corydon, Allerton, LeRoy, Garden Grove and Coin, Iowa on the south branch of the C.B. & Q. and the T.P. & W.
     Free delivery has always been a part of the business, and in those days of little refrigeration and few telephones, there were two deliveries a day, six days a week.  A 6 a.m. each day, Theodore Peterson, Emil Larson and Elmer Patterson left the store with order books and a list of customers to see.  By 9 a.m. the orders were filled and groceries on the way by horse and wagon.  Then Joe L. advertised that he would install a phone for any of these people and pay one half of the monthly fee as long as they remained his customers.
     Every other week, two wagonloads were delivered to the people at No. 1 mine five miles northeast of Chariton.  One wagon carried groceries and one carbide for the miner's lamps and other non-food items.  Gas rationing in W.W. II put an end to daily delivery, and we are now delivering two days each week.
     In 1922, the building was enlarged to cover the half block.  The store itself was a half block long with the market and big cooler at the back.  Another entrance on the east was a loading dock for groceries, and extra stock went by freight elevator to the basement.
     Early each Saturday morning, Joe L. put out a 'Line Call' to each of the party lines in turn saying 'Piper's Store will pay -- cents for eggs today' and give the price to be paid in cash or trade for chickens, butter, cheese, etc.  Piper's script money was used for those who brought in more produce than they could use that day in trade and still wanted the higher trade price.  Often several farm families at a time would buy fresh meal and would sit together around the elevator or the egg candler to visit before going out to spend the remainder of their Saturday in town.
     Pipers roasted their own blend of coffee and also Jumbo peanuts in the shell.  Each Christmas, they sold hundreds of trees.  With the basement full of trees and with trees standing throughout the long store, the fragrance of trees, baked goods, coffee and peanuts is still recalled by the 'old timers'.
     Mr. Piper, (Joe L., as everyone called him), died very suddenly in the summer of 1936.  The bakery was closed in 1936.
     Bob Piper and his wife, Ruth, with John as their teacher, learned to make homemade candy.  This has become a major part of the business since that time, with candies shipped all over the world.  In the last few years a basket shop has been an interesting addition to Piper's Food Market.

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