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Heralding Our History: The old Ivyland Country Store leans right (literally)


The Ivyland store building, constructed in 1873 by Ivyland founder Edwin Lacey, was one of the first structures in Ivyland. It was opened and operated as a store in 1874 by J. Montgomery Carr. Carr was an experienced merchant who previously had a store and dairy establishment at Neshaminy on Street Road at Easton Pike.

He took over the Ivyland store at 67 Gough Ave. and lived across the street. He operated the store with his son Wilmer and quickly found success.

Goods in the early days included not only groceries but also linens, boots, clothing, horse harnesses and an entire floor dedicated to hardware. Shoppers would come from as far away as Philadelphia to buy some of the fine silk linens and merchandise not even available at Wanamaker’s Department Store.

At one time he employed half a dozen salesman and had four delivery wagons going about the county taking orders and delivering them. The biggest part of the business was groceries. Wilmer operated the store until 1919 and then sold it to a buyer who failed to operate the business successfully.

Eventually the store was purchased by Walter and Bertha Carrell in 1922. Walter ran the store for 16 years. In 1924, the post office was moved into the store (one of the many homes the Ivyland post office would have). Under Carrell the store was successful again concentrating on groceries and meats. In 1945, one of Carrell’s longtime employees, Fred Merz, bought and took over the store until 1955.

After a few more owners through the following years, the store eventually acquired its Ivyland Country Store name in 1963. At one point in its long history, the store had a gas pump out front and even a phone booth — somewhat unusual for a store in the middle of a residential neighborhood. While the owners and the types of goods sold have changed many times throughout its history, the memories residents have of the Ivyland Country Store and its penny candy, ice cream and other goodies, are deeply rooted in Ivyland lore.

Today, the store’s exterior still closely resembles how it was originally (with, perhaps, the exception of the neon Boar’s Head sign). Painted wooden signs announcing the goods sold are displayed above windows decorated with antiques in addition to the inevitable modern elements.

Owner Jim Primodie has been operating the store as a deli for the last 25 years faithfully serving breakfast and lunch every weekday to residents and the surrounding community. Primodie, an instantly likable person who is as much a part of the store as the building itself, has worked to put his own touch on the design of the store interior. A mix of vintage décor, signage, antique and collectible items — some his own and many donated by customers — all come together to make the space resemble the general store of old.

“There are all these franchises today; this type of place is going away,” Primodie said. “We’re in a unique location in the middle of nowhere. It’s unbelievable the business we do.”

The charm and location of the store is not the only factor driving business — the food itself is just good.

During Primodie’s 25-year tenure he’s faced some challenges including extensive repairs and a recent pandemic, but he said he was always able to hang on. Roughly 15 years ago, Primodie had a big decision to make, an inspection of the old building showed there were significant structural integrity issues. If not handled, the historic building could further decline and could even be condemned. Thankfully, Primodie made the decision to go all-in and spent nearly $75,000 to make the needed structural repairs. Even if the building still leans slightly to the right — which adds to its considerable charm — it is now stable and safe. This is just another unique aspect of a longtime and much-storied gem of the neighborhood for nearly 150 years.

People can enjoy the look and taste of the Ivyland Country Store any weekday — or experience the whole historic borough itself during Ivyland’s 150th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, June 24. Primodie will have the Country Store open that day as just one of the many event attractions. A bit of Ivyland history to happily chew on.

“Heralding Our History” is a new weekly feature. Each month, the Herald will select a municipality and delve into its history. June will feature columns about Ivyland in honor of its 150th anniversary, which will be celebrated on June 24.

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