General Merchandise Stores
In the History of the Geneva Mail Service by Katherine Flynt Kilbee, it is stated that in 1875 mail came twice weekly by rowboat for those living in North Geneva and it was brought to the Coefield General Store on the northwest shore of Lake Geneva. This is the first we hear of a store in Geneva. Orange County Tax Rolls confirm the location of Coefield property at that location.
In the 1890’s, according to Annie Peters Wagnon and Leo Rehbinder, Mr. Price built a store on the east shore of Lake Geneva. (Orange County Tax Rolls confirm the location of the Price property). Jim Proctor later took over this store and the first switchboard was installed in this store in 1908 with Bertha Proctor, his wife, as the operator. Everything was sold in the old general stores. Lois Grant McKinney remembers: "I was six or seven years old before I ever owned a store-bought doll. My father bought one for Jessie and me at Mr. Jim Proctor’s store. It was the first doll I had ever owned that had hair and sleeping eyes. It was beautiful."
Annie Peters Wagnon states that Mr. Wilmont opened a small store on the opposite side of the road from the schoolhouse on Main Street and that later Homer H. Pattishall built a store just below where the Wilmont store was. Leo Rehbinder in describing stores in the 1890’s said, "Everything came in bulk then and a great many articles were sold by the quart, peck or bushel. Soda crackers came in large wooden boxes with hinged tops and had to be handled by hand and weighed. Bacon came in 300-pound boxes buried in salt and had to be cut up in pieces… Once a week a peddler wagon came around to everybody’s house with meat and for a long time Will Geiger peddled vegetables house to house." Kate Flynt Kilbee said her father, John Walter Flynt, built a store on the west shore of Lake Geneva in 1907. He "brought the goods from Sanford by rowboat, landing at Bisset on the shore of the St. John’s (north of) Geneva, and hauled it from there by horse and wagon. In his book, Russian Immigrants in Geneva, Florida - 1877, Leo Rehbinder talked about the Flynt & Rehbinder Store: "Flynt had a store on the sand road by his house, which he wanted to move nearer the coming RR station. In those days that was always the choice place for a business (c.1910). He agreed to sell me half interest for $1,000. I had saved $600 in my work. We sold the turpentine rights on our homestead for $200 and I borrowed $200 from my mother. We built the store building…and it was agreed to move in and start business …, and I laid my plans accordingly." Later Leo Rehbinder said of this endeavor, "The business was better than anticipated and except for Flynt’s credit leniency, we did well." This store was at the location of the present Geneva Grocery and Feed Store. Flynt later sold the store to Rehbinder, and Leo and his wife lived above the store. The Flynt/Rehbinder Store burned some years later and, according to Seminole County property appraiser information, was rebuilt as a concrete block structure in 1915. Mrs. Margaret E. Wicks (sister of Willie Lee Sieg and Kitty Wells Allen) and then her sister ran the store after the Rebhinders left. Later storekeepers were Dick Strevell, Hughey, and Amanda Ensor.
The Flynt Brothers, Gordon G. & J.W., opened a store on Avenue "C" west of the Rehbinder Store. This building built in 1910 housed the community library in the 1960’s and is still standing.
About 1915, Thaddeus W. Geiger built a store and fish market across the street from the Rehbinder’s store. Charles F. Harrison bought this store a few months later and ran it for a while. With the train coming through Geneva there was enough business for all.
Homer H. Pattishall erected a two-story building at the corner of Main Street and 2nd Avenue around 1915, according to county property records, and sold it a few years later to J. A. Logan, who ran the Logan Mercantile Company for quite a number of years. According to Mrs. Greer, "they sold groceries, feed for cows, auto tires, clothing and about anything."
George E. Mathieux, seeing a need in his area of Geneva, built a combination store, garage and home – the George E. Mathieux Service and Supply Co. This first store was frame, and as stated by Joe Mathieux, "if you had been in Geneva prior to 1926 and your car needed fixing, if your clock didn’t keep correct time, if you needed carpentry work done, or any kind of work, you probably would have contacted George Elissee Mathieux…the customers were so interesting. It was amazing to see Mr. Anderson sit down on the dining room steps and take off his wooden leg so Daddy could repair his prosthesis. " In 1926 a new concrete block store was built. Orie Mathieux remembered helping his father make the odd shaped blocks by hand on the site. This building still stands and is located on CR 426 at Snowhill Road.
In 1939 Ossie Banks built a grocery store on Snowhill Road across from his home. It also was a filling station and the original gas pump was the type where gas was pumped up into a glass reservoir marked for the number of gallons. The hose was then inserted into the auto’s gas tank and the gas flowed by gravity into the vehicle. Eddie Banks ran the store after his father retired. The building still stands on Snowhill Road.
Compiled by M & M Martin
Banks, Eddie; Stewart, Altamease; Witherspoon, Eula. "Oral History of Geneva - #1". 1998.
Geneva Historical Committee. "Various Industries of Geneva".
Greer, Mrs. "Memories in 1913".
Kilbee, Katherine Flynt. "Recollections of Kate Flynt Kilbee".
Kilbee, Katherine Flynt. "History of Telephone Service in Geneva".
Kilbee, Katherine Flynt. "History of the Geneva Mail Service".
Mathieux, Joseph. "Memories of Geneva – The Mathieux Garage and Shop". Geneva Historical Society Yearbook. – 1990-91.
McKinney, Lois Grant. "My Memories of Geneva".
Rehbinder, Leo Michael. "Geneva in the Nineties".
Rehbinder, Leo Michael. Russian Immigrants in
Geneva, Florida - 1877 -
(An Autobiography by Leo Michael Rehbinder). Geneva Historical & Genealogical Society, Inc. Geneva, FL. 2001.
Wagnon, Annie Peters. An Interview for the Geneva Historical Society.
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