2012-10-26 / Front Page

Looking Towards Retirement, Snyder Seeks Buyer For Historic Cataract General Store

Store Has Remained In Operation Since It First Opened In 1860
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

Surrounded by antiques and other merchandise, Karen Snyder, owner of the Cataract General Store, utilizes an antique Coca-Cola chest cooler Wednesday morning to open an ice cold bottle of Coke. (Staff Photo) Surrounded by antiques and other merchandise, Karen Snyder, owner of the Cataract General Store, utilizes an antique Coca-Cola chest cooler Wednesday morning to open an ice cold bottle of Coke. (Staff Photo) Karen Snyder has served as the latest in a long line of caretakers of the 152-year-old Cataract General Store since her husband, Wayne, passed away in January of 2007.

“Wayne and I started dating in January (of 1998) and I would come in on my days off and we would work or shop for the store,” she said. “We married in October of ‘99, so I was in the store more full-time then. I was also a parttime nurse before I retired in 2007 after a head injury.

While she still enjoys the job and the excitement that comes with it, she admits there simply comes a time in everyone’s life when they see the ‘handwriting on the wall.’

“This past summer has been one of mine with the heat,” Karen said. “We’ve always tried to keep this as realistic 1800s as we could, which means no air conditioning. With only four windows to open and a fan, I’ve had a few health issues with the heat. I’m 60, so I think it’s just the way of the world... the body does get older whether the mind does or not.”

The Cataract General Store, Indiana’s longest continuously operated general store, is currently for sale. Owned by Karen Snyder, the 152-year-old building comes stocked with a wide variety of antique items both inside and out. (Staff Photo) The Cataract General Store, Indiana’s longest continuously operated general store, is currently for sale. Owned by Karen Snyder, the 152-year-old building comes stocked with a wide variety of antique items both inside and out. (Staff Photo) The passage of time has also changed the store’s customer base.

“The younger people tend to have grown up with the ‘Walmart Syndrome,’ meaning no matter how far the Walmart is they’re going to drive to it because they think they’re going to save some money,” Karen said. “I like what a lot of the small towns are doing as far as running a campaign about buying local, because if you don’t that little mom and pop store down the street from where you live is going to go out of business. I’ve always strived to keep my prices low, but still make an honest living. People may be staying closer to home in the summertime, but then they sort of disappear when it starts getting cold – my locals are who keep this (business) afloat in the wintertime.”

The store continues to offer a variety of staples such as milk, eggs, bread and nonperishable food items like canned goods and boxed items, not to mention the wide variety of souvenirs on display and for sale throughout the store.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything in here,” Karen added.

With a home in Virginia, Karen has her sights set on retiring soon, but noted she must first find an ideal buyer for the historic general store.

“In the near future, I hope to sell. I feel that’s where the Lord has led me and I can’t wait to see what my next numerous years will be in a new setting. It’s the first voluntary move out of Indiana I’ve made,” she explained. “I’ve lived elsewhere before, but this is a big jump because all of my kids and grandkids are in this same general area. When you’re retired, you can at least travel back and forth, if your careful with your money. I want to finally have some rest and relaxation; when you work 65 to 80 hours a week, you don’t get much of that nor can you do what you want to do as far as being social. Serving the Lord even makes it a little harder as far as being involved in your church.”

Karen said that, while you won’t get rich operating a little country store, you can eke out a comfortable living and pay your bills.

“I try to treat everybody like they’re a part of the family when they come in. My husband always said, ‘I’m living my dream.’ I can’t say that, but I inherited a dream and I have enjoyed it,” she explained. “It would be nice if the new person would come into it with the mind-set that they are going to run a store and keep it the way it is. This is what people travel from all over the world to see. We’ve had people from New Zealand, Greenland, Japan, China, Australia and all throughout the U.S. I’m just really hoping whoever buys it keeps that thought.”

The asking price of $325,000, she says, is much lower than the price suggested by realtors and doesn’t factor in the value of the numerous antique items on display that her late husband had collected since he began operating the store in 1966. The store measures 30 foot-by-40 foot and includes a two-bedroom living area in the back with a bathroom, living room and kitchen, as well as an outdoor storage building, all on one acre.

“Everything was lovingly placed and most of the antiques will stay, but not all of them. I really hope somebody can come in and basically when I walk out, the following week they can take over,” Karen said. “At this point, as far as we know, this is the oldest continuously operated general store in Indiana at 152 years so it’s important that it not close down for lack of an owner. But in the same breath, I will tell you that I won’t let that fact keep me from retiring at some point. I would hate to do the last option on my list and that is take everything and sell it off little by little, I would hate that. At the same time, what can you do? I can’t stay here and let it ruin my health; there just comes a time when a lady doesn’t need to be lifting big cases of drinks.”

Some of the items featured in the store include a ribbon and lace cabinet, a screw cabinet and nut and bolt cabinet, and the store’s first cash register.

“A constant comment (from patrons) is that they could spend a whole day in here looking at stuff,” Karen added. “Well, I’ve got news for you, I moved out here in 1982, my kids grew up coming in and out of this store and there was still stuff I had really not noticed when I started working here in ‘98. There is just so much in here. My husband did a wonderful job on it. We were only together for a little over seven years, but he was such a wealth of knowledge – he trained me well for the job.”

Interested buyers are encouraged to call Karen Syder at 765- 795-4782.

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