Marthasville, Mo. – Ralph Glosemeyer returned to his boyhood home to help celebrate its rebirth as a pit stop for riders and walkers enjoying the Katy Trail State Park.
Glosemeyer, 66, grew up in the white, two-story general store that was built in 1896, three miles west of Marthasville and became a landmark amid the agricultural fields of the fertile lower Missouri River valley.
The river ran nearby, Highway 94 was out front and the Missouri Kansas Texas rail line, known as the Katy, was between the store and the highway.
Known as the Peers Store, after a Warren County judge, Glosemeyer’s parents, Linus and Loretta, bought the store in 1940 and the family ran it until 2012, when it closed.
Business was good, Glosemeyer said, but living on the flood plain had its risks.
“In the ’51 flood, we had three feet of water in this building,” he said. “Dad moved the glass-topped candy counter upstairs to my room. We moved the post office upstairs, too. People had to crawl up a ladder to the roof to get their mail.”
In 1903 the river channel shifted south about two miles, and the railroad abandoned the rail line in 1986, which was converted to a linear park stretching 240 miles across Missouri’s mid-section.
Diane Lierman, who is Ralph’s little sister by two years, attended the re-opening celebration with her brother and said there was a final blow that closed the store.
“We were doing very well until the Walmart came to Washington,” she said.
New life for an old store
The store has been given a new life, serving trail users, by Dan and Connie Burkhardt, who own a farm and vineyard in Marthasville.
The Burkhardts also are promoters of the beauty and farming heritage of the lower Missouri River valley. They founded the Katy Land Trust, which encourages landowners to preserve the farms and fields along the trail from development.
Dan Burkhardt said the general store will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends and offer Katy Trail users and local residents a place to rest and refresh on the shaded porch. The interior of the store displays the works of five artists who are inspired by the scenic beauty of the river valley.
“It will be a place to talk about conservation and agriculture along the river,” he said. “We’ll talk about the beauty of the area and how lucky St. Louis is to have it an hour away.”
Burkhardt noted that the revival of the general store falls on the 25th anniversary of the Katy Trail.
“We have a soda machine on the porch and ice cream in the store for riders and residents who need a cold treat,” he said. “It’s sort of a limited menu.”
A good partnership
Despite major floods in 1941, 1947, 1951, 1986, 1993 and 1995, Dan Burkhardt said the clapboard building was in surprisingly good shape, a testament to its construction.
He and his wife had the warped wood floor replaced, and painted the wood shelves and large counter white.
The walls now are hung with the artwork of Bill Fields, Bryan Haynes, Gary Lucy, Billy O’Donnell and Julie Wiegand. Prospective buyers can contact the artists; 25 percent of any sales will go to the Katy Land Trust.
“They’re painting what we want to preserve so it’s a good partnership,” Burkhardt said.
At the open house held for the re-opening, the Missouri Humanities Council invited visitors to bring old photos, documents and memories to share.
Ralph Glosemeyer and his two sisters, Diane and Kathy, were happy to share their tales of growing up in the store. All three lived in the back rooms and upstairs until they left to get married.
“As soon as we were able, we worked in the store,” Diane said. “We stocked shelves and ran the register when we were old enough.”
Ralph said the store sold groceries and farm supplies, and did a good business until the 1970s, when sales began slowing down.
“Me and Dad then bought 65 acres together near Concord Hill and began raising hogs,” said Ralph, who still owns the farm.
Diane also lives nearby at Concord Hill, and said she worried about the old general store each time she drove by on Highway 94.
“We were so afraid they were going to tear it down,” she said. “It’s nice that it has been saved.”
By Tom Uhlenbrock