A store that's stood the test of time
Crane's Country Store in Williamsburg, Mo., has been selling everything from farming supplies to groceries since 1926.
The six-word lunch menu at Crane's Country Store in tiny rural Williamsburg, Mo., (pop. 99) has not varied in more than 70 years. It remains "one meat, one cheese, one dollar." The bargain sandwich is prepared and served as many as 200 times a day by the busy clerk working at the sole cash register in the center of the store. Customers have a choice of 18 different meats and 12 different cheeses on their sandwich.Skip to next paragraph
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But Crane's isn't just a quick lunch spot. The next person in line may be buying a cattle trough or a box of cereal. This is one of only a few authentic country stores in America, and it attracts a broad base of loyal customers with a varied line of country merchandise and personal service.
"We offer just enough to get you going," says David Crane, who owns and operates the stores with his father, Joe. He's referring to a small selection of groceries and a large assortment of work clothes, knives, farm gates, hunting supplies, and an inventory of two or three items of just about anything someone may need once every few years.
A first-time visitor to Crane's might notice that some customers leave without paying. That's because "regulars" may opt to have their purchases added to an ongoing tally that's kept in a cubbyhole behind the cash register. No statements are mailed and no reminders are sent. When a customer is ready to settle an account – every other month, twice a year, or however often is convenient – he inquires what the total is, and pays. No interest is charged.
Since the store is such an integral part of the local community, residents often consider it an unofficial part of the police and fire department and dial the store's number in an emergency. "Our number just comes to mind first," Mr. Crane explains. He then calls 911.
"If a cow gets out of a pasture, they call here to let us know so we can find the owner," he continues, "and the mailman leaves mail at the store when he cannot pass over the nearby creek, which sometimes floods."
For those who stop by for sandwiches, the store often serves as a lunchroom. Several chairs and a couch next to the cast-iron, wood-burning stove from the 1930s attract winter visitors. In warmer weather, customers can head outside to sit in metal patio chairs.
The Crane family has been operating a country store since the late 1800s. The first one was in Mineola, Mo., just east of Williamsburg.
Known initially as the Harrison and Crane store, it was purchased by Benjamin Rush Crane, David's great-grandfather, who renamed it B.R. Crane and Sons. It was moved to its present location, about an hour west of St. Louis, in 1926 by Sam Crane, David's grandfather.
The Williamsburg location is alongside Boone's Lick Trail, which was blazed in the early 1800s by Nathan and Daniel Boone. In the 1920s, the trail was the dirt road favored by Americans migrating west, and the store stocked what they needed.