Open for Business: Maybell General Store dishes out down-home hospitality for locals and visitors
- Hunting season — 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Winter hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Spring hours — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
MAYBELL — Sitting on its original concrete footprint, the Maybell General Store has been serving Moffat County locals and visitors alike for the past 85 years.
“Since 1933, yeah,” said Mary Schminkey, who, with her husband, Joe, has operated the store since they bought the business in 2014. “That’s what the sign says, anyway,” she added with a chuckle.
Having existed for nearly a century, the store is rich in local history. The Schminkeys acknowledged they don’t know who originally founded the store, but with the help of a group of locals who’d gathered there on a brisk, October morning to drink coffee and chew the fat, they were able to trace ownership through several families and a number of years.
In chronological order, the family line of ownership goes something like this: the Trevenens, the Barbers, the Ruckmans, the Souths, the Stubblefields, the Haskins, and finally, the Schminkeys.
Farther back, there may be even more owners, but no one on hand in the store that day could recall.
“That’s the last handful I can remember,” Mary said. “… with help.”
Though the store has occupied the same location throughout its 85-year history, the building itself has changed through the years, and the Schminkeys think that, at some point, the building was probably demolished and rebuilt on the same foundation.
“So I guess originally it was just this part of the store,” Mary said, indicating the main area, which is lined with aisles of goods geared toward resident, traveler, and hunter, alike. “There had been a coal burner stove where the freezer is …”
In its early days, the business served not only as a local hub for commerce, but also home for several former owners and, in a very real sense, a kind of town center for early Maybell residents.
“Most of the families lived close in,” Mary said. “Joe and I live farther out, but they actually lived pretty much on property. … When we took down one of the trees, Jeff Trevenen came over and said, ‘Oh, that one used to have my treehouse in it.’”
Joe added the property didn’t have electricity until the 1940s, and indoor plumbing came in with the sewer line during the mid 1980s.
“It didn’t have indoor plumbing until then,” Joe said. “Everything was out in the shed. I don’t know when electricity was actually brought in,” but both Joe and Mary thought it might have been in the 1940s.
Showing more historic photos, the Schminkeys presented a pictorial retrospective of the evolution of the store, which has included several expansions and upgrades undertaken by several past owners.
“Some of these people are still around,” Mary said. “They’ll stop in the store from time to time.”
These days, the Schminkeys are working to preserve the store’s local flavor while also appealing to the tourists who pass through.
“What we’ve kind of determined is, our Maybell customers aren’t going to buy their weekly groceries here,” Mary said. “So, if they have a craving for pizza or want to have ice cream or remember something they forgot from town, that’s what they buy from us.”
She added the store also sees its share of travelers.
“In the spring, it starts with rafters; then, you get your bicyclists,” she said.
“And the people who want to play in the Sand Wash,” Joe added.
“Yeah, we get a lot of Sand Wash people for the horses and dirt biking,” Mary agreed.
She said it was gratifying to be able to serve the scores of firefighters who were in the area during the summer months.
As for catering to the broad range of customers, Mary said the task of running the store has been fun.
“We’ve tried to mix things up a bit,” she said. “I had worked for the previous owner, and at that time, the local families had school-age children, so we did sell more groceries. … Now, because most of those kids are grown up and gone, we’ve re-merchandised to have more specialty things and more for the traveler.”
Gesturing to a tray near the cash register, she said, “My biggest challenge was, could I sell truffles at the Maybell General Store, and the answer is ‘yes’ … They come out of Wyoming, and I can hardly keep them in the store.”
Earlier this year, the couple undertook several upgrades, including an interior wrap on the woodwork Joe completed himself and adding historic photos to decorate the walls, and they said they are eager for their seasonal customers to see the changes.
“So now when we get the hunters back in, they haven’t seen it,” Mary said.
Going forward, the couple said, their goal is to continue the traditions associated with the Maybell store while embracing the business’s future.
And the strategy seems to be working.
“There’s times the benches are full and I have to bring in chairs,” she said. “And, the coffee pot’s always on for the locals and the travelers.”