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Farmers Mercantile keeps on shining for area

By Van Wade

For 92 years now, Orange has had a gem in downtown in Farmers Mercantile.

The legendary “general store” has been serving the area since 1928 and it is like a “time capsule” for so many Texans that visit the store.

Visitors can still buy garden supplies, corn shuckers, sausage stuffers, hand churns, kerosene lamps, well buckets, livestock feed and hay. Also available are horse collars, saddles, bridles, blankets and other riding and draft horse tack and accessories.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, Farmers Mercantile has remained busy because the government deemed feed stores and feed mill as essential businesses.

They have had plenty of supplies as well, especially with garden needs such as cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, watermelons, peppers, herbs, blueberries, lemon, persimmon along with bagged fruit trees and olive trees and they have plenty of what is really important – fertilizer.

“We’re remaining pretty busy,” said owner Jo Harris. “We’re seeing a lot of people coming in wanting to plant spring gardens and grow food. So much is about that, with so many people not knowing what is really going on or what is going to happen.”

Harris has seen some positives through all of this as well.

“People may not get to travel right now and are starting to find out that staying home with their families and getting to be with them more has been a great thing,” said Harris. “We’ve seen a lot of people starting to plant gardens through this. They are planting gardens with their kids and grandkids and they are bonding more.”

Some more items that have sold really well of late has been pots.

“We have sold the heck out of our cooking pots,” said Harris. “It makes you wonder if people had ever cooked at home before. Those have been selling fast, the tough thing right now is the company we get them from is currently shut down now until all of this is over.”

Harris is glad that the government allowed businesses like Farmers Mercantile to remain open.

“We have been blessed to be an essential business and stay open,” said Harris. “Of course, we’ve done well with abiding by the six-foot rule. We have sold hand sanitizers when we get them in and we use them all the time too. We wipe things down all the time now. We always did before, but we do it even more now. We even wipe down customer’s credit cards if they ask.”

There are plenty of things that Harris misses.

“A lot of times here at the store, people are right on top of each other and having great conversations,” said Harris. “We miss that type of communication. We are still able to hear about the families, from six feet away of course. For the most part, people come in here, get what they need and they get out pretty quickly. The most important thing through all of this is for people to stay healthy.”

Harris wanted to express a message to everyone.

“Shop local, shop local, shop local,” said Harris. “Mom and Pops and small businesses are the backbone of our country. If people don’t shop local, whether its online, curbside or on Facebook, they won’t survive. There are a lot of very special people that own businesses in Orange, please don’t forget about us, we all love our area.”

The mercantile occupies a building that was originally a Buick dealership. Jo’s great grandfather bought the place in 1927 and opened his general store in April of the following year.

Five generations of the Harris family have kept the old store running. The store has weathered the Great Depression and other economic lows through the years.

The walls are adorned with almost ninety years worth of bric-a-brac — advertising signs, garden and farming implements, leftover automobile fan belts from the days when the Buick dealership occupied the place, assorted framed items, and other stuff.

There is one more thing that makes Farmers Mercantile a special place to the folks of the area — and that is the customer service.

Also, in this day of constant changes, it is always special that there are still amazing places like Farmers Mercantile where so many things remain the same.

Everyone that drops by can still buy that important feed, those special plants, cast iron cookware, saddles and wash tubs.

The store is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.