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By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer


It’s called The General Store and More, and it certainly lives up to its name.  Located at 107 N. Main Street in Elkader, the business sits on the site of a building that was constructed in 1869.  It originally housed Kramer’s Meat Market from 1869 to 1923.  Sold to Alfred Frick, who also ran a meat market, the business continued to thrive until a 1959 fire gutted the building.

A new building was constructed in 1960, and Mariella Miller opened The Fashion Shoppe there from then until 1990.  It then briefly became J&M Liquors until Elaine Diers purchased the property in 1992 and opened The General Store. 

Like the general stores of the past, Elaine sold bulk candy and pasta, but she also added gourmet coffees, ice cream and had a vast variety of gift items and knick-knacks.  Diers operated the store until 2011, when Monica Stence bought the business.  In June of that year, she opened The General Store and More.

“I had been working at Dollar General for 9 ½ years, and I just decided that it was time for a change,” she said.  “When I bought the store I wanted to have things that people could make and use.  “I gradually phased out a lot of the gifts and knick-knacks and added a line of new items.”

Stence was no stranger to dealing with the public.  She worked as a waitress at the Kountry Manor, a popular restaurant and bar owned by her parents, and ran Jerry’s Alibi, a restaurant and bar in Elkader, for several years after the death of her father.  Monica also cooked at both places, a talent that she planned to use in her new enterprise.

Monica kept a lot of the bulk products that were popular at the store and expanded them to include more spices and different kinds of candy.  After owning the business for about six months, she brought in a variety of products from the Edgewood Locker.  Along with the meat, she also offered several kinds of cheese and fresh cheese curds that were delivered fresh on Fridays and usually sold out within a day or two. 

During the next two years, she expanded her products to include soup, dips and bread mixes, cutlery and other kitchen gadgets.  She also expanded her ice cream fare to include sundaes, malts and shakes.

“I like to keep different things on hand for people planning get-togethers and parties,” she said.

When she bought the business, Monica had a kitchen built in the rear of the building.  It took a while to complete, but when it was finally finished she was able to offer lunches at the establishment.  She was now able to put her cooking talents to use.

For lunch, she always has a variety of homemade soups.  She also makes Sloppy Joes, chicken and ham salad sandwiches, potato salad and deviled eggs, which are offered every day.  Her menu changes daily, and includes turkey and dressing and BBQ pork sandwiches, using Edgewood Locker meat.  For dessert, one can purchase a handmade ice cream cup or a handmade ice cream sandwich cookie Menus are available on More.

“I’m planning to expand the menu with other home cooked meals,” she said.  “I have always liked to cook and I like to find something different to try.  For several years, I made things like jalapeno poppers and other foods for tailgating parties before Iowa football games, so I was always trying something new.”

One of her favorite things about owning The General Store and More is the people that come in to have lunch or peruse the counters and bins.  “It’s nice to see my regular customers that come in, and I also get to meet new and interesting people,” she said.  “I also get a good business from campers in the summer, and I get a lot of out of town people that are just driving through town.  Many of them say that they wish their town had a store like this.”

Monica has no regrets about opening the store.  “I like it because I’m my own boss,” she said.  “I do everything myself.  I guess I’m kind of a workalcoholic.”


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