Country stores like this one sprang up in rural areas in the latter half of the 1800s. Before this, commercial trade had been allowed, in principle, in cities and towns only. People who lived in rural areas could shop only in special places where open markets were held a few times a year.
Country stores quickly became an integral part of rural life and they were located as centrally as possible – next to the church, the market entrance or at a crossroads. This country store comes from Snarhem in Uttersberg County, Hed Parish, where it was situated along the main road.
Customers came from a wide area ranging from Bysala in the south to Riddarhyttan in the north. In addition to food, other goods such as suits, shirts, eyeglasses, photo albums, nickel-plated bread baskets, galoshes, knitted slips and paraffin lamps could be found in a country store.
The country store also served as the local post office and a news bureau. Customers bought on credit: the store owner kept a record of purchases and customers paid their debt when they could.
Goods inside the store are displayed differently than they are today. Some goods hang from the ceiling while others are stored in floor barrels, on shelves or in boxes behind the counter where the shopkeeper stood.
Hanging from the ceiling is a wooden frame known as a ‘dragon’. It looks like a large snake, and is a display mechanism from which goods could be hung. Traditionally, dragons were trustworthy guardians of treasure. A shop ‘dragon’ signalled that goods at that location were counted and weighed correctly.
The country store was not only a place where villagers bought things; it was also a social centre. People went there to hear the latest news, pass time with the storekeeper, play ‘pull fingers’ and socialise. Sometimes the shopkeeper might offer a pinch of snus or a dram. The shopkeeper’s store and residence were often in the same building.
The last person to live in The Museum’s country store was Gustav Bernhard Thorgren who ran it until 1946. He lived here with his wife and five children. An office and the family’s residence can be found next to the store. The whole family slept together in a little bedroom on the upper level.
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