Gwaltney’s Store

gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-va-7-14-2007-7-30-13-am-3872x2592 gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-va-6-27-2009-5-06-12-pm-4195x2113 gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-va-6-27-2009-4-51-10-pm-6217x4725 gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-va-6-27-2009-4-42-28-pm-2877x3745 gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-va-6-27-2009-4-40-14-pm-1992x1920 gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-va-6-27-2009-4-24-37-pm-4644x5856 gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-va-6-27-2009-4-16-56-pm-11680x9312 gwaltney-store-chuckatuck-10-12-2008-5-22-13 gwaltney-store001-vers-1This store was next at the intersection of Routes 10 and 125.  We believe the Peck/Brittain/Ramsey/Pinner/Jones/G.L. Gwaltney store, built in the early 1800s is the oldest working store on record.  A circa 1900 tin picture of this store has a sign on the front which reads “Nat Peck’s Cheap Store”.  After that time it was run by the Brittain family.  Later  E. E. Jones and his wife, Blanche Pope Jones, rented directly from Dr. L.L. Eley.  When Lafayette Gwaltney bought the store from Dr. Eley in 1929 there was a step up as you entered which provided additional head room for the basement under the store.  Rumor has it that in those early years the basement might have been a speakeasy or something similar, but others say it was just an accumulation of stuff.  In a conversation with Frank Spady, Jr. in 1999 he indicated that in the 1920s the main floor of Gwaltney’s store was lowered during a remodeling job when living quarters were added upstairs.  Mr.  Spady also said that a bar existed in that basement at one time.  There is some confusion as to who was running the store at the time of lowering the floor, but Paul Gwaltney, Lafayette’s grandson, said that it was one of the first things his grandfather did when he bought the store because it made a more level entry.  Although robberies have been minimal in this area Mr. Gwaltney was robbed and shot three times in 1970.  He made it over to his home next door, told his wife, returned to the store and waited for Dr. Eley and Dr. Thomas to arrive.  When Mr. Gwaltney passed away in 1991 his son, G. L. “Spunk” Gwaltney, Jr. took over and worked the store until he was unable to continue in 2009.  It was then that the door was secured as in later years it had not been profitable at all.  It is important to note the store in 2009 was a real step back in time to the mid 1800s.   In 1948-1950 Drex Bradshaw, as a summer employee along with many other locals, worked for Mr. Gwaltney, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when he was very busy.  Possibly the most dedicated employee in his later years was Frank Buppert who was born and raised in Chuckatuck.  Frank could be spotted in a crowd of people 24/7 because he always had a tooth pick in his mouth.  He even kept it there when he smoked which he did for many years.  After he retired from the Navy Yard in Portsmouth Frank spent most of his time helping Mr. Gwaltney in the store.

Just like other stores most purchases were on credit with very few paying until month’s end or when the crops came in.  From the Norfolk Ledger-Star dated Monday, June 14, 1971 the following is quoted from an interview with Mr. Gwaltney.  “I’ve worked many a long hour and shared many a disappointment with my friends, especially during the real hard times some years back, but sitting here thinking about it now, well, I’ve had the best opportunity a man can have in life, and that’s having a chance to know a lot of good people and being able to help them when they needed help.  That’s what this career and life had been for me” he said.  Lafayette Gwaltney had his own system of welfare in the hard times.  It wasn’t anything elaborate or complicated.  “People had to eat whether they had money or not.  It was as simple as that” he said.  According to Paul Gwaltney the room attached to the store was used for dances on Saturday night and at least once a month the Lone Star Cement Company held a meeting there consuming several cases of beer.  Paul also remembers during hog killing time having a basket full of hog heads sitting just inside the door.  They were a delicacy for some of the workers in the area.