Poole family auctions off historical, useful items of landmark store
By Jen Bondeson
Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
The Poole family watched Saturday as an auctioneer took bids on bits and pieces of their life – once cherished, and now sold.
Thousands of merchandise items from Poole's Store along the C&O Canal in Poolesville, which closed Dec. 31, are now in homes, backyards and farms all across the county.
A crowd of family friends, farmers and collectors surrounded the bed of a Ford truck where the auctioneer sat calling out the collection, which consisted mostly of gardening, farming and horseback riding supplies. Items ranged in size from shovels to plows, and they varied in use from a forklift for a farm to historic store signs for safekeeping.
There were 168 people who took bidding numbers, and many more came to watch.
Items were auctioned from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., when below-freezing temperatures thinned the crowd. The family made more than $10,000 in total.
Raymond Poole, 84, and Billie Poole, 80, owned the store for 45 years. The family started planning to close it about a year ago.
"Everything must go," Jack Poole, 58, one of their sons, said as he stood next to the truck.
JoAnn Clements, 48, one of their daughters, said the store had been incurring debt for several years – an amount that now totaled a couple hundred thousand dollars. It accumulated from old house accounts – neighbors who were trusted to pay the family for merchandise but never did.
The store was one of the county's remaining 19th century general stores. The Poole family -- descendants of Poolesville's founders -- bought it from the Allnutt family, who built it in 1901, according to the Maryland Historic Trust.
Raymond and Billie's six sons and daughters had run the store in recent years. Clements, Jack Poole and their sister, Marilyn Poole, 42, worked in the store.
Clements and Marilyn Poole will now work for a family friend who distributes animal feed from a nearby warehouse.
Clements said the family was happy with the turnout on such a cold day.
Billie Poole sat inside drinking coffee and chatting with family members.
She was cheery as she spoke about the store and the way it brought her family, and the community, together.
"It has been so wonderful -- everyone being together, and doing everything together," Billie Poole said. "The whole community is like one big family."
She said the store had come a long way from when they first took it over as a general store.
Many people in the auction crowd were family friends who said it was sad to see the store close.
Ed Cody, of Poolesville, who went to high school with the Poole's children, said he was disappointed.
"It was a store that was unique to the community," Cody said.
Bruce Deppa, a chairman of the Darnestown Civic Association, said the association had hoped the store would remain open and with the Poole family.
"This is a tight-knit community, and it is a shame it had to come to this," Deppa said.
Many in the crowd realized there were deals to be had.
The majority of smaller items, such as gardening supplies, ground poles and fuel pump handles, went for under $10.
A Komatsu forklift, which the family bought for $5,000 about eight years ago, went for $1,500 -- the most for one item.
Richard Cohen, of Potomac, bid on a stage-coach lamp, with the bulb hidden underneath the wagon's cover.
Cohen, who won the item for $75, said it had been with the Poole family for many years.
Cohen has a western room in which he has many other decorative antiques, such as old bits, spurs, saddles, handcuffs and rifles.
"It will be perfect on top of the fireplace," Cohen said.
From the start of the auction, John Cavell, of Middletown, hovered over items, winning several bids.
An hour in, he had already bought a shelf-full of items – and the shelf itself, which cost him just $1.
"Anything I can make a dollar on," he said.
The family plans to donate the remaining items to local charities, such as Poolesville-based Hands of Love Inc.
The Montgomery County Department of Parks, which owns the store, will hold one or two public meetings this month to discuss the store's future. More than 500 store patrons had petitioned for the meetings.
Wendy Fishere, a friend of Billie Poole, gave the Poole family a wooden plaque at least 25 years ago. On the plaque, which hangs on a post inside the now-emptied Poole's Store, is a hand-painted poem:
A meeting place,
A change of pace,
Courtesy and country charm,
Everything for the garden, home or farm,
Fertilizer, seed and feed,
Every conceivable animal need,
Professional livestock transportation,
A deer checking and a gas station,
Expert hunting and farming advice,
Groceries, clothing, plenty of ice,
Raymond and Billy, husband and wife,
To their customers, friends for life.