To reinvent something, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says is “to make as if for the first time something already invented.” If that definition were to include an illustrative photograph, an appropriate example might be “The Town’s Mercantile” in Eddyville at 143 W. Main St.
“My great-grandfather had ‘Town’s Grocery’ in Old Eddyville, before it was flooded,” explains Jenni Frank, the proprietor of the new… or perhaps reinvented business. “Town is my grandmother’s maiden name. So, (the new store) is not quite the same thing, obviously; it’s my spin on their original store.”
With enthusiasm for her business that would make her forebears proud, Frank conducts a tour for a first-time visitor, while her mother and young daughter come in and out of the room fronting Main Street. “I refer to ours as more of a specialty store,” she says. “We have specialty food items that make this a little bit different. We have our own line of canned goods. It’s the Saratoga Springs cannery line, named after Saratoga, which is in Lyon County.
“That’s actually where our family resides now,” she continues. “So, those recipes are ones that we have chosen specifically for our store. We have pickles, asparagus, jams, jellies, salsas, buttermilk biscuits, pancakes, apple cider, and Muscadine cider. My dad has lots of stories of going and picking Muscadines in LBL and things like that. He made sure we have that in here.”
Black-and-white photographs of grandparents, cousins, and local townsfolk in the 1940s and ’50s line a wall. “Of course, all of this was gone by 1962,” Frank reminds her visitor of the year when Old Eddyville and Old Kuttawa were flooded to make way for the creation of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. That’s when those relatives came to new Eddyville.
“My great-grandfather — because he was a business owner — they all were allowed to have a business plot in new Eddyville,” she says. “His plot is actually the one right next door to our new store. Where Salon 109 is now, they opened Town’s Laundromat. He gave part of his plot to other business people to start a barber shop and a beauty salon.”
Switching back to the present, the new shop owner highlights specialty items. “We have German mustards, which always are popular,” she notes. “I actually worked for a mustard company before I moved back to Eddyville. It’s a German company. So, I got in touch with them and we’re carrying their mustards. Lowensenf is the German mustard that we carry. Then, we also carry Tiger Tale, which is their first U.S. brand.”
The store also features high-end serving ware, part of Frank’s effort for it to become a “must-stop” for entertaining. “When you come here, you’re going to be able to find a platter and food to put on it and a gift to go to someone’s party,” she says. “My biggest thing as a small business owner and a curator of all of these items is finding gifts that you look at and think of your friend or ‘my husband would love that.’ So, that’s what I keep in mind when I buy the goods for the store.”
Besides food and serving ware, it also stocks gift items, drink ware, “happy gifts,” including jewelry, men’s items, old-school metal razors, and a small spa section. “We also have our own locally-roasted coffee,” explains Frank. “A partner and I co-founded a coffee company and we carry it here. It’s called ‘Grounded.’ We have our whole beans for sale here in the store.”
A special section of the store is called the “Merc Meetin’ Place,” a room for small events for ten to 12 people, the suggested size of many gatherings during the COVID pandemic. “It will be available for rent,” Frank notes. “I’m thinking for small showers, luncheons, and events we plan to have, like a paint party, floral design class, things this winter, when there’s nothing to do. You can come hang out at ‘the Merc.’ ” Then, she quickly adds, “We have other goals for the future, too.”