OLDTOWN — When Harry and Marie Shryock opened their store along state Route 51 more than six decades ago, it might have seemed to be just one more business situated along the long winding road between Cumberland and Paw Paw, W.Va.
But for this community, that life-long venture has proven to be much more than a business.
“They’ve always been here for the community. Harry and Marie built the store 64 years ago and have run it the whole time. She’s 87 and he’s 88. Some people think they are retiring but they’re not,” said daughter-in-law Margaret Shryock, who grew up not far from the store.
“Harry also used to do a little mechanic work too — change tires, fix a flat, things like that but he gave that up five or six years ago.
“They say at one time there were 23 stores on Route 51 between Cumberland and Paw Paw but Shryock’s is still standing.
“Most of the little mom-and-pop stores are gone but Harry and Marie are still going strong.”
For many years, Marie served as treasurer of the Oldtown Volunteer Fire Department‘s ladies’ auxiliary in addition to working the store.
“Harry and Marie both remain strong and loyal supporters of the department and the ladies auxiliary,” said fire department spokesman Dennis Mallery.
“When they had their gas pumps at the store, the department always got their gas for the apparatus, and Harry would allow us to pay the bill a month at a time, long before there were credit cards.
“And it wouldn’t matter the time of day, or if it was the middle of the night, and we were returning from a call and needed gas, Harry would get up and turn on the pumps. If he was closed and we needed ice or sandwich makings, he’d always open up so we could get whatever we needed,” said Mallery.
So why did Harry keep putting others ahead of himself, operating Shryock’s Groceries seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. — and opening at times when it must have been inconvenient?
“I feel it’s part of my duty to help any way I can,” said Harry during a gathering at the Oldtown fire station. But he admitted the idea wasn’t his own. “It was my dad’s idea, and we started from scratch.”
Oldtown resident Bob Malamis said he’s driven past the store countless times, and always has the same thought in mind.
“Every day I drive by there I think about Harry and how he came back from the Army after World War II and started a business. It was the epitome of the American dream. He and his wife have been providing community service ever since, seven days a week,” said the retired Allegany County construction inspector.
Commissioner Michael McKay presented a citation to the couple to express Allegany County’s appreciation. McKay said the Shryocks and their store operation are a great asset that represents “the cement of this community.”
Earl Kerchevale and Harry go back a long way.
“We worked on his dad’s farm together,” Kerchevale said. “The Shryocks have meant a lot to this community. If it wasn’t for them, we have to go to town just to get a loaf of bread, or milk or something simple like that.”
Oldtown resident Shelby Jackson also noted the Shryocks’ concern for their neighbors.
“They’ve always helped out any way they can,” said Jackson. “This turnout here shows what kind of people they are — good people.”