BETHANY - For anyone unfamiliar with the workings of an old-fashioned general store, stepping inside Chambers General Store in Bethany will be an enlightening and delightful experience.
Located on Main Street in the heart of the quaint and historic town, Chambers has been a fixture for as long as anyone remembers.
Operated by the Chambers family, it's business as usual with Charlotte Chambers at the check-out, her husband Bob handling the inventory and their son Harry working the deli where students swear by his fresh, made-to-order hoagie sandwiches.
Harry Chambers serves up some delicious, hand-dipped ice cream at Chambers General Store in Bethany.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
Being in a college town, Harry said the store serves as a "surrogate family" for many students who may be far from home or on their own for the first time. A look around the store sees why students, faculty and residents of Bethany pass through its doors regularly.
"It's fun to watch their (students') faces when they come in for the first time," Harry Chambers said.
"They've never seen a wood floor, but it doesn't take long for them to know about the deli and the ice cream we sell."
Those hand-dipped cups of ice cream were selling briskly even on a very chilly, late winter day. Everything from nuts and bolts to Band-Aids and butter can be found within the confines of the store's shelves, coolers and hanging displays. Fresh ground beef and pulled pork also are popular at the store.
Harry Chambers said the recent natural gas boom in the area has brought a new clientele to the store with drillers and pipeliners calling the area home for now. He noted that some of the workers even fax him orders for breakfast sandwiches as early at 5:30 a.m., and he has the food ready for them as they head out to start the day.
While some residents of the quiet town may complain about the increased truck traffic due to the natural gas business, he said it's much like it was during the 1970s when coal mining brought large trucks through the town.
"It's really been interesting meeting people from all over the country. I've even found some with the same last name as mine," he added.
Business during the summer hours remains brisk despite Bethany College being in recess. Harry noted that the college sponsors a stream of summer camps, including popular sports camps that bring a lot of younger children to the store. The Beast of the East baseball tournament also brings an influx of visitors to the town and businesses during the summer.
"With the younger kids it's a lot of bubblegum and Slushies and less cigarettes being sold," he said.
Charlotte Chambers, who taught school for 30 years, said she loves her job at the cash register and enjoys working side by side with her husband and son.
"We get close with a lot of the (college) kids. When the kids get ready to graduate from Bethany, they are asked which professors they want to sign their diplomas. Well, one boy wanted Bob to sign his diploma but the college said he was not allowed," Charlotte said. "After the graduation ceremony, the boy brought his diploma to the store for Bob to sign. That meant a lot."
Korin Hoskinson, who works in the financial aid office at Bethany College, is very familiar with the offerings at the store.
"It's the best place ever to get lunch and ice cream. I'm in here all the time."