PARSONSBURG — The official name of the new store is Route 346 Emporium, but locals call it Holloway’s Store like they have for years.
“I had a store here for 19 years,” said owner Joe Holloway, “from 1985 to 2003. We sold Red Wing Shoes, poultry equipment, ice cream, hardware, subs pumps — we covered the spectrum of what people in a country community needed. In all that time, nobody offered to buy the store until one day a man walked in the door, wanted to buy it and I sold it to him. But I bought it back in 2012, after they had a family tragedy and wanted to sell.”
The inventory of the famed Holloway’s Hardware Store of old is gone, replaced with an eclectic inventory.
“I spent the early part of 2012 going to sales, cleaning out my attic, the farmhouse, the barn and even the things that were still here in the store,” said Holloway’s wife, Faye. “We found some interesting things in the rafters. I found glass candy jars with labels still on them … with candy still in them.
“While I was doing research on the Internet, I got hooked up with the granddaughter of the guy who owned the company when it went out of business in 1928. She drove down from Baltimore to buy them. That was so much fun, to see people get excited about things we just happen on,” she said.
“We even found a Baltimore Colts stadium seat; the guy that bought that was as happy as a kid at Christmas. The things we have in here are things you don’t normally see in stores, stuff you can’t go to the mall and buy. Some people might consider these things junk, but to a lot of people like us, they are treasures. We’ve had a good time with this; it’s been fun. Yes, it’s labor intensive, but we enjoy it.”
“Joe’s roots are so deep in Parsonsburg and this store is such a landmark that we wanted to reopen the store and keep it viable, and wanted to do something that was fun for both of us. We can’t work together too well, but we each have a thing we do to make this work. Things we fall in love with we price so high that people have to love it more than us to buy it,” she said with laughter. “But we try to keep our prices reasonable. If we can pay for the inventory, electric and gas, we are happy.”
“This isn’t a museum. We are trying to sell stuff,” Joe said.
Yet it is not a full-time job for either. Joe serves as a Wicomico County Councilman and Faye works three days week at Peninsula Regional Medical Center as volunteer coordinator.
What gives the place is comfy, homey feel is a marketing strategy that Faye set down for her husband.
“If Joe was putting stuff in here, he would have a row of 20 tables, a row of 20 sofas and a row of 20 chairs. I told him, ‘Women don’t shop that way,’ we have to do it differently. I have three cousins and some friends that come in and help me set up, a real fun day.”
The inventory fills about 5,500 square feet.
“Basically I use the same business approach here that I used when I had the hardware store. If you’ve got a big space, fill it up with stuff people can use,” Joe said.
The store is about keeping a family tradition going as well as affording the two an opportunity to stay connected with their community through a shared interest.
“It’s hard for little general stores to compete against big stores like Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Home Depot,” she said. “It’s sad, because we have people stopping in weekly who want to buy an ice cream cone like they bought here years ago. They have fond memories of coming in here when it was a small community store. I think one of the nicest things about us reopening the store is that people do come in and sit down and chat, catch up on the gossip and local news. It’s really enjoyable for both of us to see people we wouldn’t normally see.”
“The place looks small from the road, but people don’t realize we have all of the buildings here filled,” he said. What became the store was originally built as a Mechanic’s Hall in 1910. “In 1917, the Mechanic’s sold the building to brothers Elijah and George Ennis, and they rented the top floor from the new owners,” Joe said. “I bought it from the nephew of the original owners.”
Through the years, several buildings on the site were joined, and it is now one large complex. It’s still the oldest commercial business in town.
“Mostly people find us by word of mouth and just by riding by on Old Ocean City Road. Customers come back and bring their friends. We are antique, thrift, used furniture, tools, collectibles and you name it,” she said.