Swisher family closes family business after 95 years
HUGHESVILLE – A family history of 95 years just closed its doors for the last time on Friday, September 30, 2016. Practically a lifelong existence that started in 1921, the Swisher family’s Quik Stop Store on 170 N. Main Street in Hughesville has kept up its reputation over the years as a local gathering place for news, coffee, lottery tickets and many household incidentals such as milk, bread and deli meats.
Current owners Tom and Carolyn “Butch” Swisher have announced their retirement in retrospect as they look back to the years that started such a noteworthy community landmark.
Tom’s grandfather, Fred Swisher, began FD Swisher & Sons at 99 N. Main Street in Hughesville where Lindauer’s Tavern is currently located. Fred ran the business on the first floor while he and his wife, Esther Swisher raised their family on the second floor. One morning in 1923 a fire broke out and the family lost everything, clothes too according to Tom. “There was nothing left but ashes.”
Fred then moved to Philadelphia where he took a position in a furniture factory. He worked in the mill for 3 years and sent money home to his wife and children, Delvin, Derr and Lillian who were living with his parents. It was prior to the depression and they made enough money to get ahead.
After the fire, a move took the Swisher family to the Rohrhurst Building where they rented some space in the former hotel at 61 N. Main Street now occupied by Doug Spotts Appliance. Esther ran the store with her eldest son, Delvin. They sold magazines and rented books for customers. Delvin would deliver them from a wagon.
Three years later Fred returned to Hughesville and worked in a farm factory for a brief while before it went bankrupt. With no income Fred, in return used lumber to build furniture in town and to keep the store going. During this time they returned to the Lindauer location where Fred used some space to build the furniture such as bedroom suites, end tables, and some chairs. Meanwhile, son Derr graduated from high school and went to college in Delaware. He later ended up on Broadway choreographing USO shows for the Rockettes in New York City during the 40s.
A second business opened up by the Swishers called the Blue and White restaurant. Esther and Delvin ran the restaurant which was the beginnings of the popular coffee club, and Fred ran the store while building furniture in the back room. “A bell would ring, and he would go to the front and wait on the customers,” Tom said.
During WWII, son Delvin went to work for the ordnance and Fred and Esther kept the store going at 99 N. Main Street for many years.
After the war, Delvin and Fred worked together again running the store. They put in a soda fountain, added some groceries and more magazines. They named it ‘FD Swisher & Sons’. A juke box was added in the late 40s and before long the place became a popular dance hall (behind the building.) “Every night after school, dancing was big then!” explained Tom. “The Hughesville Rotary Club also met there for many years.”
In 1952 Fred Derr Swisher passed away at 59. Esther still ran the business, and did all of the cooking. She also prepared the meals for the Rotary. Delvin and Esther continued to run the business until Delvin married Ruth Cox whom he met in Eagles Mere working at the Crestmont Hotel.
The couple had three sons, Dick, Tom and Robert “Chuck”. They were all born ten years apart. Dick who was born in 1931 died at an early age from a shooting accident, Tom was born in 1941 and Chuck was born in 1952. Fred became ill in 1950 so Delvin and Ruth ran the business until Delvin passed away in 1967. At that time, their son, Tom took over the store and ran it with his mother who later became employed with the county at Lysock View. Ruth Swisher lived to be 100. She passed away December 24, 2010.
Jack Smith from Hughesville who used to deliver milk from Houseknecht’s Dairy, remembers when Delvin was fire chief of Hughesville. “He would be running the store by himself and get an emergency call. He would leave the store unattended and people were on the honor system.”
“It worked out fine,” Tom said. “People were honest. They would come in, get what they needed and leave the money.”
Smith said the store was open 7 days a week and became a political gathering place. Chuck Swisher said the locals would come in almost every day for coffee and get the news for the day. “I would wait on the kids buying penny candy.”
In 1972 Tom decided to build a new store where it currently sits today at 170 N. Main Street. He had married his high school sweetheart Carolyn whom everyone calls “Butch.” A grand opening took place on March 25, 1973.
“The coffee club came along and helped us move. It only took one day,” Tom recollected. The couple have been running the store since.
They had one daughter, Robyn whom many in the area got to know well since she opened an ice cream business in the vacant lot next to Quik Stop. She called it the “Bird House” and during the 80s it was quite popular. It was a seasonal business operated exclusively by Robyn and it paid her way to college according to her parents. Long lines were often seen during hot summer days. “She ran it every summer until graduation from Bloomsburg University,” said Butch. She closed it in 1986, sold it and moved away to New Jersey with her new family.
Swisher’s Quik Stop Store will always be remembered by many. “It’s a great store,” said Gary Alexander from Hughesville. “I tried to bribe them not to close,” said the frequent customer who would stop at least 4-5 days a week.
“I remember when Tom’s dad had the store downtown,” said Richard Shuler who came into the store often.
The Swishers are currently remodeling a home in the LAM development and on that last day of September 2016, Butch was enjoying a photo of Tom using a jackhammer that Robyn had posted on Facebook. “Imagine him doing this kind of work at 75,” she said. Both Tom and Butch are very busy. Butch said she will continue to be office manager at H&R Block as she has been doing for the past 39 years, and Tom said he is looking forward to not working seven days a week.