BARLOW-It was 1946, at the counter of the general store in Barlow.
Mrs. Proctor, whose family had owned the store since 1913, slapped her hand on the counter as she eyed the store's incoming owners, Lester Seaman and James Yost.
"Boys," she said. "We've had the store for 33 years. We want you to keep her even longer."
KATE YORK The Marietta Times
Seaman’s General Merchandise has been in the same building since 1857, with several owners and names over the years.
KATE YORK The Marietta Times
Seaman’s General Merchandise owner Charles Seaman talks to a customer while manning the store’s counter earlier this month. Seaman has been the owner for 31 years.
Longtime employee Doug Lemon weighs corn for a customer recently at the business.
The Marietta Times
And they did, turning it over to current owner and Seaman's son, Charles after nearly 38 years. The scene then repeated itself, down to Yost's hand banging the counter as the point was made.
"When I bought it my uncle said 'They had it for 33 years, we had it for 37 and we want you to keep it longer,' just like she told them," remembers Charles Seaman.
With plans to retire in the next two or three years, Seaman, who has owned the store for 31 years, may not get to have that traditional conversation with the next owners. But he's part of an even bigger one-a 157-year tradition of providing the Barlow area with a general store that carries everything from feed to greeting cards to aisles of tools. They serve 30 gallons a week of hand-dipped ice cream each summer. There are sunglasses, boots and mini Nickles apple and cherry pies just above the mouse traps and across from the bins of peanuts you can scoop yourself.
At a glance
Seaman's General Merchandise
Location: 925 Warrior Drive, Vincent.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Owner: Charles Seaman.
1857-James Merrill opens the general store, called Merrill Brothers Dry Goods, in the same building it's in today.
1913-Harry Proctor buys the store and names it H.M. Proctor and Son, after it changed hands several times.
January 1946-Lester Seaman and James Yost purchase the store, now called Seaman and Yost.
1983-Charles Seaman buys the store from his father and uncle and renames it Seaman's General Merchandise.
1985-The grain and feed operation is put on site.
August 1985-The first-ever coat of paint is applied to the building.
1993-The full grocery in the store is eliminated.
Within minutes, one customer comes in for liquid nails, another for a soda and a snack.
"I think diversity of products is one of the reasons we've stuck around," said Seaman. "We're stocking 3,400 items, not counting the things we'll order for customers from catalogs."
The biggest sellers are still agricultural products, like feed, and the lawn and garden section always does well. Hardware has also been a steady trade, said Seaman.
Not everything has made the cut over the years, however.
There was once a full grocery and a complete clothing section, for example, and today there are limited food items and simply footware rather than clothing, which was too fad-based for the store. Making those adaptations has kept the store alive, along with something else Seaman said is really the key.
"We treat people like they're family-customers and employees," he said. "I always say we serve in the tradition of yesterday. We're an alternative to the big box store and we're certainly a dying breed."
It's a store where the employees not only know the vast array of products-and can easily make recommendations- but the people who come in as well.
On a recent winter morning, it wasn't a generic "How can I help you?" that Seaman uttered as a man walked in the door, but "Hey Bill, are you feeling better?"
When another customer's order came up to $17.04, Seaman, who helps man the counter every day, waved off the change.
"We don't count pennies," he said. "Seventeen is close enough."
All those exchanges take place in the same building where the store was opened in 1857 by James Merrill, with the original creaking, wooden floors, shelving and walls still in place. Outside there is still a stone step from the days when those who rode horses to the store needed a step down.
There are well-preserved books that log sales all the way back to 1850-when the ledger says a quarter-pound of All Spice sold for a nickel-but because the building near the intersection of Ohio 550 and 339 was constructed in 1857, that's the official start date used.
From the counter, Seaman has had a bird's eye view of the community, watching the children of the community grow, and supporting the area as much as possible.
All the frames and baskets in the offices are made by local craftspeople, and over the years the store has been the site of everything from public street dances to Dog Dip Days, offering flea baths to dogs outside as a fundraiser for the humane society.
"We're part of the community and you have to be to be successful," said Seaman.
That sense of community is what brought employee Doug Lemon back to work at Seaman's General Merchandise, after a stint working there after high school.
He went on to college and a different career but when he was laid off, Seaman's was still there, he said.
"Charles was here for me," he said. "There's a great history here and a great sense of community. I've gone home with more than one backache, but it's worth it."
Lemon and Randy Fisher, both longtime employees, will take over the store when he retires, said Seaman.
"They've done just as much for the business as I have," he said.
Fisher said he has his fingers crossed for another 157 years for the business, if it keeps following the same old-fashioned but ever-adapting rules.
"The way things are done here are just different...you can get whatever you want," he said.
If there are bulk bags of seeds, customers only have to pay for however many they want.
"It's a good business," Fisher said. "I hope we can continue to grow it."