The Corner Market in
Mary's Home turns 100
|In 1906 Henry Sanning
built this store in Mary’s Home. One
hundred years later, the store still retains its character with its
original metal “boomtown” facade and interior furnishings.
is one of those places in Missouri you aren’t
likely to find on your own. No sign points the way off Highway 54 to
the little town located between the state capital and Lake of the Ozarks.
If you don’t know someone who lives here, there’s no good
reason to stop.
This isolation is
the main reason The Corner Market, the town’s
lone store, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2006. While most
country stores have gone the way of the steam train, The Corner Market
still meets the needs of a loyal following who buy milk, bread, beer
and tobacco products or stop by for lunch.
never be passing it,” says Sandra Millard, who, along
with husband Ted, brought the store back from the brink eight years ago. “You’d
have to be coming here to find it.”
The Millards sold
a travel agency in Jefferson City and invested their money in The Corner
Market eight years ago. While the store was in excellent shape considering
its age, it needed a lot of attention.
owner Sandra Millard brought the store back from the brink and
invested much time and money into its loving restoration. The
store still carries many of the items it would have when it was
built but no longer takes rabbit furs as barter.
The store was slowly
dying. Townspeople feared it would close. But Sandra had always dreamed
of owning a country store.
Her father and grandfather
ran stores in Eugene and Hickory Hill, where she grew up. Her fondest
memories are of the stories her grandfather told of his days as a storekeeper.
was during the Depression. “People were starving,” Sandra
had no money. He would let them take cornmeal and flour, sugar and
things so they would at least have something. They couldn’t,
of course, pay him. When he got married Grandpa let them work off
their debt on his house and I was born and raised there.”
store in Mary’s Home, named in honor of the mother of Jesus,
operated the same way. Cash-strapped customers bartered for their
needs, perhaps trading live chickens for coffee or rabbit furs
for sugar. One man, who delivered bread to the store 50 years ago,
told Sandra he could only speak German to the store’s
The store is unique
in its pressed tin interior and exterior. Visitors stare in awe at
the sight of its impressive façade,
known as a “boomtown” front.
The metal sides are designed to look like stone blocks. Large
front windows warm the interior in the winter while a canvas
awning keeps out the heat in the summer.
|Long before Sandra arrives in the morning a group of men known
as the Breakfast Club opens the store for her and gets the coffee
Inside all of the
original furnishings remain in place, from the long glass-topped counters
to the yellow pine shelves. “It’s so unique because
so original,” Sandra says. “It’s never been
anything else and it’s never been closed.”
set of steps split to take customers to the U-shaped mezzanine.
From here they can get a close look at the beautiful, ornate
pressed tinwork with fleur-de-lis patterns.
When the Millards
bought the store, years of neglect and smoke from the wood stove
made it almost impossible to see the ceiling details. Clutter needed
to be cleared away and the mechanical systems replaced.
Undaunted, they hired
a crew of painters to come in and work all night on the ceiling. “Before
see any of the design,” Sandra
says of the ceiling. “It just sprang back to life.
It amazed me and everyone else.”
While the building
got a facelift, the Millards were careful to leave anything
that hinted at its past. The old knob-and-tube wiring installed
when electricity came to Mary’s
Home in the 1930s can still be seen nailed to the outside
of the walls. Even burners from the earlier gas lighting remain and are another
While the store carries a wide variety of items, most customers
come in for the just a few items. Lettering on the store front window
announces some of the most popular items.
An acetylene generator
in the basement made gas when water dripped on carbide placed inside.
Instructions for operating the dangerous contraption can still be
found posted on one of the wooden beams.
Another remnant of
the old store is the kerosene siphon. The storekeeper dialed in how
much kerosene the customer wanted and the siphon delivered just the
right amount into the customer’s jug.
The pressed tin and
original furnishings are interesting enough. But Sandra added to the
effect with tasteful antiques she found, including an old hand crank
wall phone and historic photographs of the town. Three deer heads with
impressive racks and a full body mountain lion mount are conversation
shelf space with the idea of renting booths to craft and antique dealers,
which is slowly taking off. The store also does a good trade in work
clothes, selling Key, Polar King and Wolf Mountain brands.
If the walls
could talk they would tell a fascinating tale. The store was built
in 1906 by Henry Sanning, a garage owner from nearby Eugene. When
it opened it was the second store on the site and competed with an
older general mercantile located across the street.
Sanning built three
more stores in Eugene, St. Elizabeth and St. Thomas. All four buildings
are still standing, but only the one in Mary’s Home still
serves its original purpose. “This
was the smallest and most insignificant one,” Sandra
The store would be
known by the various families that ran it until 1983, when Ray
and Betty Kliethermes bought it and renamed
it The Corner Market.
|A broad set of steps split to take customers to the U-shaped mezzanine.
From here they can get a close look at the beautiful, ornate pressed
tinwork with fleur-de-lis patterns.
who return to Mary’s Home for the annual Our Lady of the
Snows parish picnic or stop in for lunch
tell Sandra the store looks the same as it always did. It still serves
as a center for community news as much as a place to get convenience
Long before Sandra
arrives in the morning a group of men known as the Breakfast Club
opens the store for her and gets the coffee
pot going. Then they settle in to tell tall
tales and maybe even eat some breakfast.
There’s a closeness
in this little community that the historic
store helps to foster.
“They say that the little towns like this, when
the store goes, the town goes,” Sandra says. “There’s always
got to be one store that’s
holding it together. When that goes
it will never be the same.”
To reach The Corner Market, take Highway 54 to the Highway 17 exit,
then go east to State Route H. The store is 3 miles north on H. It is
open every day except Monday. For more information, call (573) 498-6326.