Nostalgic general store reaches its 99th year

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula, 86, is seen outside of his store in the hamlet of Tway, which his father, John, opened in 1915 and which he’s run since his father’s death in 1947. 

Published on August 17, 2014

One of the aisles in the hamlet of Tway’s Prytula’s Country General Store is seen -- an eclectic range of items that include knick-knacks, toys, collectibles and practical household items.

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula.

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Published on August 17, 2014

John Prytula, the original owner of Prytula's Country General Store, is seen in this undated photo. 

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Published on August 17, 2014

Victor Prytula

Walking into Prytula’s Country General Store, one’s first impression is a somewhat overwhelming blend of claustrophobia and nostalgia.

 

Lined with knick-knacks and toys of years and decades past, the store’s shelves are jam-packed from top to bottom, from wall to wall.  

After about a minute of wandering through the store without a soul in sight, owner Victor Prytula opens the store’s screen door, a bell sounding his presence.  

“I heard you coming from my house,” Prytula announces, offering a friendly smile.

Prytula explains that his home is two buildings down the gravel road that serves as the hamlet of Tway’s main street.

Prytula, 86, immediately launches into story-telling mode making guests to Prytula’s Country General Store feel as though he’s been waiting all day to see them.

Just about every item in his store seems to have a story, which Prytula is keen to share alongside pride-filled stories about his two daughters and son.

“You could call this a general store and museum,” he said with a chuckle.

Walking behind the front counter, he pulls out a German belt buckle that he figures came from The Great War.

“Do you read in German?” he asks, pointing to a line on the buckle written in the language. “Somebody read it out to me, and I put it inside,” he said -- a phrase that he’s translated onto a small piece of paper that reads “God with us.”

Two hours move past quickly in this fashion, with Prytula never letting the conversation lag for anything greater than a few seconds.

Much has changed in Tway since his father, John, opened the general store on Aug. 14, 1915, Prytula said -- 99 years ago as of this month.

Tway’s population peaked at about 225 people in the 1950s, Prytula said, noting that it now hovers at “either nine or 12.”

Located about 37 kilometres south of Birch Hills and 73 kilometres southeast of Prince Albert, Tway is well detached from any major highway, with the nearest paved road a few kilometres away.

Originally intended to serve the area farming community with a John Deere and Imperial Oil outlet next-door, the general store has now become a tourist draw fed mainly by word of mouth.

The John Deere and Imperial oil outlet is long-closed, alongside a hotel and the balance of Tway’s business community -- Minus Prytula’s Country General Store, of course, which Prytula inherited from his father, John, who died in 1947.

The store’s last shipment of food came in about 20 years ago, shifting the business to its current gift shop/museum focus.

Pulling a doll out of an antique dresser, Prytula cranks a key to unleash its gentle song.

“When I fist got these dolls, this whole ledge was all dolls with a music box,” he said, his positive demeanor dropping for a moment. “Now these three are left.”

Lamenting the sale of certain items, he’s learned to put “not for sale” signs on certain items, and to stick to his guns in not selling them.

At 86 years of age, Prytula still comes into his store six days of the week, unlocking the front door at around noon every day except for Sunday.

Prytula said that he used to laugh off people’s suggestion that the store would make its 100th anniversary, but with no signs of slowing down, Prytula said he will do what he can to keep the doors open and his stories flowing. 

Organizations: Country General Store, Imperial Oil

Geographic location: Tway, Birch Hills, Prince Albert

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