Heart of Elm Original Bomberger’s Store gone, but not forgotten

By on October 19, 2011

By: ROCHELLE A. SHENK Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer



Photo by Preston Whitcraft
The original Bomberger's Store at 664 W. Newport Road (below) was built in the 1830s. When building codes made its upkeep too expensive, the landmark had to be demolished in August (above). A monument will be erected in its place.Photo by Preston Whitcraft
The original Bomberger's Store at 664 W. Newport Road (below) was built in the 1830s. When building codes made its upkeep too expensive, the landmark had to be demolished in August (above). A monument will be erected in its place.

The square in Elm seems to be missing something these days. The original Bomberger’s Store at 664 W. Newport Road, a key component of this rural community for generations, was demolished in August.

Kathryn Shreiner, a long-time resident and this newspaper’s Penryn-Elm correspondent, recalls just how important Bomberger’s was to the small town. She and her husband, Jim, started their married life in an apartment they rented from the Bomberger family. She said the store was an integral part of the community, serving as a general store where people could buy gas, fabric, groceries and appliances. There was even a barber in the basement at one time.

"Bomberger’s was a big part of life in Elm," she said. "I bought my first washer and dryer at Bomberger’s, and my mother- and father-in-law, Emma and William Shreiner, shopped for groceries there."

She also recalls that the Bombergers and their employees were very people-friendly.

"They knew people by name and would ask about the families and what was new," she said. "When it was close to closing time, they would sit a bit and visit with customers."

The old store was built in the 1830s, according to Todd Bomberger, a fifth-generation operator of the business that is now located along Route 501, just north of Lititz.

He said the original store started out as a trading post, saloon and hotel when Newport Road was a major highway between Erie and Virginia. Owners through the years include Todd’s great-great-grandfather Pharis, his great-grandfather John, Henry Sr. and Roy Sr. (his grandfather and great uncle), and Henry Jr. and Roy Jr. Today, the company continues to be run by Bombergers — Todd and Rich Bomberger (Henry Jr.’s sons) and Bob Resch (husband of Todd’s sister, Dori).

With all that history, taking down the original building, where it all started, was a tough decision. But current building codes made its upkeep too expensive. In it’s place, the Bomberger’s plan to erect a monument to this community focal point.

"With the building gone, it opens up the square and makes the town more attractive," Todd said, adding that there are currently no plans to redevelop the area.

The tract that includes the original store is approximately 3.5-acres and is designated as "village district zoning." There are multiple buildings on the site, including Newport Dove Church, the Elm Post Office, and a Worley & Obetz Wo-Go fueling station. The second Bomberger’s store operated out of the big building that currently houses the church, from 1972 until they moved to Route 501 in 1994.

Penn Township manager Dave Kratzer Jr. said that demolition of the original store building was approved by the township supervisors through a conditional use hearing on July 25, and a demolition permit was issued Aug. 11.

The Bombergers took over the store in 1887 and renamed it Bomberger’s General Store. Bomberger (Todd) noted that there had been two additions to the original building, one in the 1930s and one in the 1950s.

According to "Manheim Revisited: 1700-2000," published by the Manheim Historical Society in 2000, and the Bomberger’s Store website, Bomberger’s was moved from its original foundation in 1972 to a new spot on the same tract. The new building, which today houses the church and post office, had over 45,000-square feet of space, double the size of the building that had formerly housed the store.

Bomberger’s moved to its current location, 555 Furnace Hills Pike (Route 501) in Warwick Township, just north of Lititz, in November 1994, approximately two miles from the original site.

"We had leased the original store building to several tenants," Bomberger said. "However, with the new building codes it would not have been economically feasible to bring it up to code. When we lost the last tenant, it cost more to operate it empty. It had to be heated since there were water pipes there."

Bomberger said he understands that the building was a piece of the community’s history and to acknowledge that he plans to place a monument near the site of the former building. The monument would be constructed using some of the sandstone blocks from the building’s foundation. A time frame for the monument’s construction has not yet been set.

Kathyrn Shreiner recently submitted the following in regard to the beloved store:

Recalling Bomberger’s Store

My editor, Steve Seeber, asked your correspondent to recall happenings at the former Bomberger’s Store in Elm.

As a bride, my husband, Jim and I rented an apartment from the Bomberger family. We lived approximately six months in the second floor of the red brick house that perhaps you may recall was relocated to another site.

The first store in which we purchased our wringer washer and refrigerator was located near Newport Road and was recently razed. This store was like a mini-mart and served many areas. Part of the store was a post office and another part was a grocery store. Dry goods, shoes, underwear, hunting licenses and a barber shop were all available in the store. On the lower lever of the store was an insurance agency and carpet place. Also sold were feed supplies, and I recall purchasing horse feed for my daughter’s horses. The store had a logo, "From soup to nuts," which was exactly what the store included, as nails and building supplies were sold, making a trip to larger stores unnecessary.

Customers were known by name and I can recall that baby gifts were presented to welcome the newest family member to the Bomberger’s Store family. The store also had sewing supplies. The name general store applied to this convenient store location. My mother-in-law often shared this fact. Saturday evening, she and my father-in-law would shop their way through the grocery items and when the store closed, the late Lizzie and John Bomberger would invite their remaining customers to visit in the kitchen of their residence, which was separated from the store by a door and heavy curtain. My late in-laws enjoyed this time spent in the kitchen of the Bomberger’s. Their Christian heritage was extended to their customers. I recall when grocery give-aways were in progress and winning a peach basket of groceries.

Gone, not forgotten, is Bomberger’s Store in Elm.

Esther Erwin helped your correspondent recall facts of the store in Elm. She was an employee of Bomberger’s Store. More BOMBERGERS, page A16