A 19th Century general store in Sussex County where customers get breakfast and lunch, pick up their mail and buy firewood for $5 a bundle is up for sale.
The owner of the Garriss General Store is seeking $699,000 for the two-story commercial building and next-door, 3-bedroom house.
The store opened in 1876 and is believed to be the oldest of the few remaining, old-fashioned general stores in New Jersey, with a Texaco gas pump (no longer in use) out in front. One tenant lives in the house, which was rebuilt following a fire in 1937.
Dean Voris, a retired New Jersey State Police lieutenant, bought the property in 2016 and said he did extensive renovations.
Voris, contacted by NJ Advance Media on Thursday, said he put the store and house up for a sale about a week ago. The store has several employees, but Voris said that much of the workload falls on him.
“It’s grown into something out of control for one individual person, and that’s all I am,” Voris said, adding that his goal is to find a buyer who will keep it open.
“I probably would not consider selling it to someone who was going to come in and do away with it. It’s my pride and joy,” he said.
Voris lives elsewhere in Stillwater, five miles away.
Independent general stores were the precursors to Wawa, Quick Chek and other chains that flourish throughout New Jersey. They were at their peak in the 1800s, frequently serving as the primary business in small communities.
The Garriss General Store has a loyal, tight-knit following in Stillwater, a rural town that covers 26 square miles without a single traffic light.
Margaret Romer said she gets her mail from one of the 250 boxes on a wall in the dining area leased by the U.S. Postal Service, then orders a cup of coffee.
“French roast, if he’s made it. It’s my little morning routine,” Romer said.
“I would hope to heck it stays as the little general store that it is,” she added.
A second general store in Sussex County recently was sold after a nearly five-year effort to find an owner and remains in operation. The Hainesville General Store opened in 1883 and is located 18 miles away in Sandyston.
Voris said he never intended to run the store, which he initially saw as a real estate investment.
“I bought it to restore. Somewhere I got the crazy idea to run it. It’s one of those businesses where you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said.
“I never said I was going to be here the rest of my life,” added Voris, 61.
Howie Ryan was gathered at a table with several friends last Friday, explaining that he returned for lunch after getting breakfast there that morning,.
“This is home. I probably eat more meals here than in my house. It’s kind of what this country used to be. Everybody comes together,” Ryan said.
Larry McDonough, also a regular customer, dropped by with a friend from out of town. He ordered Taylor ham, with egg and cheese, and coffee.
McDonough said he found out later that day that Voris is seeking a buyer.
“It’s a young person’s game. It’s a dedication to people and the town. It’s not just running a business and shutting it at 4 o’clock. I just hope that somebody like Dean is interested in this,” McDonough said.
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Rob Jennings may be reached at [email protected].