My PerspectiveJim Davidheiser
Jeff and Heather Heimbach were standing behind the counter at Bahrs Country Store, their relaxed demeanor reflective of year and years of business experience.
Then again, appearances can be deceiving.
Less than a month after reopening the legendary general store in Gabelsville (Colebrookdale Township), the Heimbachs are a combination of high octane, hometown satisfaction and family-reliance enthusiasm.
Since the Bahrs Store doors opened to the public on September 29, Jeff (some know him as "Beef") and Heather have been working non-stop, seven days a week, re-establishing the reputation and momentum initiated by Jeff's parents, David ("Tiny") and Kathy Heimbach, store owners/operators prior to selling the business three years ago.
A number of owners have come and gone since Tiny and Kathy opted to close the store. (The building is actually owned by Alan Gehringer/Gehringer Mechanical. However, the store business is owned/operated by the Heimbachs.)
Jeff's a self-described workaholic. During the week, he opens the store, usually prior to 6 a.m.
Then he leaves for his full-time job with Haines and Kibblehouse; he returns about 5 p.m. and takes care of the market operation until closing at about 6:30 p.m. "I just keep going, morning to night. I have a high energy level."
Heather: "I'm at the store fulltime. Previously, I was employed by Waste Management prior to my job being transferred to Langhorne [Bucks County]. I was trying to decide what to do, when we found out this store was up for rent."
More than ever, Jeff insists it's a "family affair" these days, what with his parents and Heather's mom and dad, Eric and Donna Eisele, helping out with various aspects of the store operation.
And Kristy Brinckman, Jeff's sister, has been putting in quite a few hours, as well.
Bahrs Store has been a Gabelsville institution for years [actually since the early 1800s]. Located on South Ironstone Drive just off of Route 73, the market is part convenience store and part deli/sandwich shop. But way beyond that, it's one of those throwbacks to another era.
If the Heimbachs would install a pot-belly stove in one corner of the store, the "old-timers" would probably come to life, swapping farming and hunting stories and weaving memorable tales.
Back to those parents for a moment. All four share a contagious excitement about the reinvented Bahrs Country Store.
Donna Eisele: "I think it's wonderful. It's their dream, and actually, I remember buying shoes here when I was a little girl." (That memory is a familiar one to plenty of folks in this region.)
Eric Eisele: "I think it's a good opportunity to have a little family-type store back in the area. We all come in and pitch in and help out. It's great."
Kathy Heimbach: "People tell us, 'we're so glad you're here again,' I'm really happy about it ... when I stop in to visit or to help, it's 'like I've done this all before.'"
And Tiny Heimbach's reaction: "It feels really good. When Jeff and Heather expressed interest in doing this, we were certainly in favor of it, and it's good to see the old customers again."
Open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday from 7 to 2, the store is just about fully-stocked, from milk and bread to lunch meats and canned goods. There's even a small "hardware" section, as well as a shelf of pet-related items.
Heather: "We sell Alderfer's (luncheon) meats and Wegman's salads and our red beet eggs are homemade. We even can our own red beets. Daily newspapers (and 'The Boyertown Area Times') are for sale, as well.
Plus, there's always a pot of fresh coffee. Mostly, we consider this a convenience store without the convenience store prices. Jeff calls it 'an old-fashioned mom and pop store.'"
The deli/sandwich menu includes hoagies (ham, Italian, roast beef and turkey), meatball sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, hamburgers and cheeseburgers and quarter-pound "Black Angus" hot dogs. Eventually, "hoagie sales" will also be part of the overall offering.
And, of course, there's the famous Bahrs Store egg sandwich, first created by Tiny Heimbach and now crafted by Jeff and Heather.
(Prior to offering details about those breakfast sandwiches, Jeff took time to wait on an old-timer who answered to "Mr. B." His order amounted to two packs of cigarettes, a pouch of chewing tobacco and a half-gallon of iced tea. And then Mr. B was on his way. Another satisfied customer.)
Jeff: "I start making those egg sandwiches weekday mornings at five. One recent morning, we made 35 sandwiches. The last year that Mom and Dad had the store, they made 6,000 in one year. We're talking about an egg sandwich on a seven-inch hoagie roll, with your choice of meat and cheese if you like. We use the same cast-iron pan that (Tiny) used. It stays with this store."
The Longacre's ice cream freezer just arrived a few days ago, and it's set to be stocked with a full assortment of flavors and novelties. (Sorry, no hand-dipped ice cream, at least not in the foreseeable future.)
The second floor of the store is reserved for crafters and flea market folks, and there's plenty of space available for consignment vendors.
Tiny's "Boyertown memorabilia" items are already on display and for sale, and another vendor is offering a nifty collection of old/classic videos and DVD's. (For more information, call the store at 610-367-9613.)
The Bahrs Country Store "grand re-opening" event is set for Saturday, November 3, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. On that particular day, for just one dollar, you can get two hot dogs and a tapped birch beer.
One of the signs posted close to the Gabelsville landmark heralds: "The Heimbachs Are Back." And that succinct announcement brings smiles aplenty to folks as they drive by the market.
Bahrs Country Store is alive and well, that's grateful news in these parts.
UNITY WALK POSTSCRIPT - In last week's column which centered around Boyertown's fourth annual Unity Walk, I mentioned my concerns regarding the lack of attendance by certain people in the community.
For the record, that was an editorial observation but was certainly not intended to offend anyone on a personal level. If the latter did indeed occur, I extend my apologies.
Jim Davidheiser is a free-lance contributor to The Boyertown Area Times/Berks-Mont Newspapers. Email commetns to email@example.com.