Family clearing out Coulston’s Grocery storeCoulston’s Grocery has been a fixture in Jamestown since the 1920s. Even in the years since the store closed in the early 2000s, the sign and building have been a reminder of the neighborhood grocery stores that have all but ceased to exist.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Coulston’s Grocery has been a fixture in Jamestown since the 1920s. Even in the years since the store closed in the early 2000s, the sign and building have been a reminder of the neighborhood grocery stores that have all but ceased to exist.
The store fixtures, some items still left on the shelves and some other items go up for sale next week. It is the final chapter in a 75-year story of this family business.
Carol Coulston Kelly, daughter of Verna and Archie Coulston, has fond memories of growing up in the family business.
“Watching my dad take a baby out of its parent’s arms and carry it around the store,” Kelly said. “He would ask the parents if he could give the baby a piece of candy or a piece of summer sausage. Whatever the parent wanted he’d give the child. Once he took care of the baby they got down to buying some groceries.”
Verna and Archie were a team in the operation of the store. Archie Coulston was legally blind, Kelly said. Verna handled the store bookkeeping, marking prices on products with a thick marker and cleaning the meat counters and shelves.
Archie sometimes asked customers to read off the price tags and could judge the denomination of a coin by the sound it made when dropped on the counter, Kelly said.
The team worked well together for more than 40 years.
On June 8, 1970, Archie Coulston was killed in an attempted robbery. His killer, Leander Standish, was arrested within hours while still in downtown Jamestown.
Mary Faith Young, Jamestown historian, called the killing a true tragedy.
“Archie was such a nice man,” she said. “He’d have given anything. The man didn’t have to kill him.”
Records of Standish’s trial were unavailable as of press time.
After Archie’s death, Verna kept the grocery store open.
“It was tough for mom to continue,” Kelly said. “But it was all she knew.”
Archie Coulston had been a business partner with Arthur Kelly in an earlier grocery store in Jamestown. When Kelly moved to California in about 1928, Coulston built his own store on Seventh Avenue Southeast. It was one of a number of small neighborhood groceries around Jamestown.
“There were little groceries in every neighborhood,” Young said. “They all went out of fashion when the supermarkets came in.”
Neighborhood groceries served a need decades ago that no longer exists, Young said.
“Parents could send kids there to get a dozen eggs or some milk,” she said. “They trusted the store owners who would usually give a treat to the kids as well.”
This created a personal connection between the grocer and the neighborhood children.
“Some of the kids in the neighborhood could say Archie before they could say daddy,” Kelly said. “That irritated some of the men.”
Neighborhood children were often customers themselves of the local stores.
“Penny candy and nickel ice cream bars,” Young said. “Selling to kids was always a big thing for the small grocers.”
Kelly said Coulston Grocery helped save many holiday meals in Jamestown over the years.
“Back when no businesses were open Sundays or holidays we’d get a call almost every time,” she said. “Somebody was out of something. Usually it was whipping crème for the pumpkin pie. Dad would open the store and sell them what they needed.”
Kelly said her family closed the store about 2000 or 2001 although many of the items remaining look older. The phones all have rotary dials instead of buttons and the products don’t feature the bar codes used to identify products with computerized cash register systems. The store items on the sale are supplemented by items from the Coulston home.
Two River Estate Sales is offering the items for sale from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 4 and 5 at the store location.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com