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Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Story of Sycamore Store

before supermarkets, stores like this served the community for groceries - the delivery truck is at left
early photo, courtesy of the Rogers family
(source: Sherry Pettie in Sycamore Islander, October 1999)
no copyright infringement intended

(click here for the Romanian version)

7025 Mac Arthur Boulevard in Montgomery County, Maryland, not far from Glen Echo Park. A house of balanced allure, always empty. A sign over the front window: Sycamore Store. Down is the Potomac, with the Sycamore Island, situated a bit up Little Falls.  A path of less than ten minutes walk links Sycamore Store and Sycamore Island.

So a country store on the roadside, closed for many years. I didn't know anything about the place, while I was fascinated by what looked to be a very rewarding mystery. I passed by many times, on my weekends' hiking. It was one of my favorites, to go along Mac Arthur Boulevard, the old Conduit Road, up to Glenn Echo Park, sometimes even further, to Cabin John Bridge. There are a lot of places on this road that I would love to talk about, and one of them is this Sycamore Store.

I found detailed information about it in a column by Sherry Pettie, that was published in the Sycamore Islander, in 1999. The store started operation in 1919. His first owner, Hugh Boots Johnston by name, was also a member of the nautical club from Sycamore Island (even carrying the title of captain of the island for some time). In 1953 the business passed to George H. Rogers, who had been an employee there since 1935. And Sycamore Store went on, living its life fully. People were finding here everything they needed, fresh fruits and vegetables, custom-butchered meat, and generally all you should expect to find in a grocery. A delivery service was provided, and I imagine you could also have a drink or two and stay for a chat: roadside store and family saloon, I would say. Parties were organized on Saturday evenings and a friend of mine living nearby told me once that he used to go there when he was young, for strong drinks and nice girls; I observed that this was a very dangerous mix; he replied that he managed to survive. Now he is in his late forties, married and sober (like me, I'd say, except that I'm in my late sixties, but I also enjoyed such parties in my young years).

the front window seasonally decorated (that was once upon a time)
(source: Sherry Pettie in Sycamore Islander, October 1999)
no copyright infringement intended

By early 1970's the business started to shrink and the main activity remained making sandwiches for lunchtime. It went on this way up to mid 1990's when the store was closed for good.

About ten years ago the house was bought, it seems, by two architects with nice plans of reviving the place as an old style saloon or something. Once I even saw inside some workers. That was only once, I was passing by with a friend who was driving his car in a hurry. I was shy to ask my friend to stop, as I would have liked to enter and to change a couple of words with the people there, to understand what was happening. I never saw people inside after that, only once the storage near the house was open, there was a small truck there, and no one around.

Eventually the two architects gave up, it would have been too costly. So Sycamore Store is again on sale.

I tried once to shot a video, walking around the house. I could see inside the row of freezers in the front room, the stairs in the room behind, leading to the bedrooms up, the elegant fireplace, in all it was very cozy, while strange, due to the absolute emptiness. A perfect place to unfold a story of Hitchcock.

(Looking for the Old Trolley)




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