This article is presented in partnership with Dutch Country General Store.

Dutch Country General Store is about community—creating, contributing to, and being a part of a community. In 2019, when the Davis County, Iowa, based company decided to open a second location, their hunt brought them to northeast Missouri. It’s been a year since Dutch Country General Store opened its Hannibal doors, and the thoughtful location selection and community-minded staff make it feel as if it has been there for decades in this close-knit downtown neighborhood. 

“The old-fashioned general store was the heart of the community where everyone came to find something. Almost everyone could find something they needed or wanted at the general store so it was the most likely gathering place for everyone,” says Dutch Country General Store Hannibal Manager Kathy Wear. “We like to provide that experience today for folks to revisit a time from the past.”

Left, Haydon Bock, cashier, assists frequent customer Julie Mills Rolsen with selecting specialty sodas for her guests at Garth Woodside Mansion.

Hannibal Arts Council Executive Director Michael Gaines met the general store owners during their exploratory process of deciding which community they were going to invest in. “You could tell they were not just interested in their business but the community they were moving to,” he says. “What they invested in, to underline it, is an interest in a community at large.”

Leading up to and since the store’s opening, the owners and staff have shown they meant what they said about community, Gaines says. The Hannibal Arts Council has been the beneficiary of Dutch Country General Store’s corporate giving initiatives, as have other area organizations, and the focus when it comes to the store is squarely on making everyone feel welcome.

When a guest walks in the front door, they don’t go unnoticed. Someone will call out, “Hello!” If you’re new to the store, you won’t be a stranger for long. That call may be the voice of Haydon Bock, a seventeen-year-old high school student who has found a place at the general store. Technically, Haydon’s a cashier, Kathy says, but he really does it all—cashier, stocker, deli counter, maintenance, you name it. 

“Throughout the year, we see hundreds and thousands of people that are strangers to us. We meet new people every day,” Haydon says. “But there are the ‘regular’ customers we see a couple of times a week, and we end up building a bond with those regular customers and get really close to them. It’s like they are a part of our team.”

Customers enjoy a variety of snacks purchased from the store and take advantage of a beautiful day.

Some of those regulars come in almost daily for a sandwich, others a couple of times a week for local homegrown brown eggs, a free ice cream cone, some hot coffee, or just to visit, Kathy says. “That’s kind of what we’ve grown.” Really, she adds, it’s a reflection of the family- and people-first philosophy at Dutch Country General Store. “Our customers become family, and we hope visitors to the community feel like family when they visit here.”

Haydon retrieves a much-wanted toy from a shelf just out of the young girl’s reach.

Visitors come from places like Garth Woodside Mansion. Innkeeper Julie Mills Rolsen sends all of her guests downtown for souvenirs and the small town experience they can find at Dutch Country General Store. She says, once you get past the 288 bins of nostalgic candy near the front door, there are more treasures to be found. After guests have perused the hand-dipped and hand-made chocolates in the Piper’s chocolates case, grocery selections, home decor, vintage imaginative games and toys, vintage metal signs and memorabilia, Amish-made hand-woven baskets, locally made jams, jellies and salsas—it is a general store, after all, with a focus on products made in the United States—Julie typically recommends grabbing an “over the top” sandwich made at the deli counter with rustic Amish-made bread and deli meats, a bag of chips, and crazy-flavored soda (bacon, peanut butter, birthday cake, pickle, and cookie dough are a few options) and heading over to the lighthouse or the Mississippi River and have a picnic. 

“Dutch Country General Store is a place where you can find many treasures,” Haydon agrees, “and it is pretty difficult for someone to come in and not find anything they like.”

To add to the experience of a bygone era, the building the general store is located in has a nostalgic feel and is filled with history as well. Built in the mid- to late 1800s, it adds character to the memories the store’s staff wants to make for its customers.

“There’s so much history already in the location of the store and the nostalgia that the store brings to the place. That’s what we’re creating at Dutch Country,” Kathy says. “A lot of people in the community are very proud of how the downtown has grown back, and it is such a welcoming place for visitors to come and take a step back and stroll down Main Street. We’re just holding on to that space and time, that history that was there. We want to try to recreate that and keep that alive as much as we can. And when I say we, I mean the whole community.”