Owners say goodbye to cheese shop, hello to country store

MIFFLINTOWN – The Van Wert Cheese Shop is gone, but not for the reason most small stores disappear. On the contrary, owners Donald and Sherry Hess and their daughter, Jennette Zook, tore it down to make room for a new and improved version – Van Wert Country Store.

The new name represents the business more accurately.

“It’s more of an everything store now,” Zook said, adding that people thought the cheese was made there, which it wasn’t.

Zook said the store does the most business with its bulk food selection and its deli, which have both expanded along with the store.

“Since we moved out here we got into housewares, toys and … we started making hot sandwiches. Our hot food has really been taking off,” she said.

The new store offers hand-dipped ice cream and a seating area, as well as a variety of gifts and household items. The shelves are lined with baking and cooking supplies, snacks, personal care items, pet supplies, greeting cards, baskets, toys, games and trinkets.

“We’re trying to offer a higher quality,” Zook said. “My dad wanted to offer things that are a little nicer (while) trying to keep prices competitive.”

The Hesses purchased the cheese shop from Lucy Graybill almost seven years ago. Zook said Graybill was a great help to the family when they first assumed ownership.

“It was just a huge jump into the blue for us,” Zook said.

Lucinda Lauver, who at the time had been an employee there for almost 30 years and is now around the 35-year mark, provided guidance as well.

“She helped us a lot with all the stuff we didn’t know,” Zook said.

After a while, the business outgrew the small building. The Hesses decided it was time to either put an addition on the building or build something new. They chose the latter, demolishing the old building to make way for the new.

The house adjoining the old store is in the process of being torn down as well. The space will offer additional parking to customers.

Van Wert Country Store is located at 5430 Cedar Springs Road in Van Wert and is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays. The store is closed on Sundays.

For more information about the store, call 463-3864 during business hours.