Naples General Store
A glimpse of the past
Leaning against the granite soda counter at the Naples General Store, waiting on my scoop of rocky road, I glance around and realize that this is not the general store of my grandfather’s era. Sure, the nostalgia of a hundred years of history is still here, but it’s quite clear that this business intends to be relevant for the next century.
Founded in 1893 to cater to the needs of local railroad employees, the Naples General Store is the second oldest business in Boundary County, coming in just behind the Bonner’s Ferry Herald. Back then, it was the place to come to load up on groceries, the day’s mail, or just a few snippets of gossip while warming up around the woodstove. The same services can be had today with everything one would expect in a small country store, including a roaring fire in the antiquated wood stove during the chilly winter months.
Over the years this business has undergone countless changes in shape, services and vision. The year 1917 brought a raging fire that reduced the original building to ashes. The structure that stands today was constructed in 1931 and still retains many of its original features, including the hardwood floors and the local post office, which occupies a small room at the rear of the store.
There have been only six sets of owners in the store’s entire 118-year history, with the current proprietors, Chad and Laura Kimball, taking over in early 2009. From the beginning, the Kimballs have set out to update their newly acquired business and provide a few services that seemed to be lacking in the Naples area.
The first order of business was to update many of the supplies and equipment. New freezers, shelving and counters along with fresh coats of paint inside and out have given the store a fresher look. Next, came the new services. Laura is a visionary and the changes she’s brought to the store have all been extremely successful.
The second floor once served as a home to a few racks of army surplus clothing and a smattering of other miscellaneous items. These days women (and some men) bound up the staircase for a few minutes in the private tanning room, letting the ultraviolet lights work their magic.
Scoop ice cream was added a year ago and quickly became a huge hit through the hot summer months, but the Kimballs were intent on providing more. This summer an old-fashioned soda counter was added, offering smoothies, milk shakes and, of course, a variety of ice cream treats. The scent of homemade waffle cones drifts through the air, enticing customers to try one.
And this is where I find myself now, where a small town scene unfolds before me. A little girl and her grandfather savor their cones at the counter with sticky drops of color sliding down their lips. Two teenagers stand at the register paying for their fuel and movie rentals while through the front door walks a crew of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad employees looking for a cold drink.
Despite the upgrades, this is still a general store at heart and the features that have set it apart as the soul of Naples still remain. Need a few groceries, a bag of dog food, or a box of nails? Perhaps a fishing license or a tank of propane? It can all be found here. Within twenty minutes you could be fully outfitted for a weekend of camping in the Selkirks to the west.
What’s next for the Naples General Store? Stop in for yourself and find out, but don’t forget to grab that waffle cone before you leave.