GRANDMA MADE MEN’S CLOTHES WHEN SWEETEN’S STORE STARTED
Note: The following are some excerpts from a 1965 article in the Penns Grove Record written by Frances Bowen about the Sweeten’s Store, in Pedricktown, which was
still in operation at the time. The Sweeten Store is featured on this year’s Pedricktown Day tee shirts.
Sweeten’s Store, in Pedricktown, holds a record for having been conducted by one family the longest of any general store in New Jersey.
J. Preston Sweeten, present owner and manager, is proud of this accomplishment and of the high standards that have been maintained since 1860, when his grandfather,
James Sweeten began the business in Center Square.
In 1870, James Sweeten moved to Pedricktown. Here his store was across the street from the present one (corner of Railroad Avenue and Mill Street).
“My grandmother used to make all the clothing that was sold in those days,” the present proprietor said. “She made men’s pants, work clothes, all of it.”
James Sweeten erected the present building in 1891 for use as a home as well as a place of business.He became first president of the First National Bank of Pedricktown.
Around 1900, J. Preston Sweeten’s father and uncle were operating the business in Pedricktown together with one in Penns Grove. The uncle became ill and went west,
and the father, Preston P. Sweeten, managed both stores. “Father used to work here in Pedricktown from 7 in the morning until 10 at night.”
Up to 1910, the Pedricktown store was open every night until 10 and Saturdays until 11. It was open six days a week.
Preston would go to Philadelphia and buy merchandise, which was shipped to Pedricktown by railroad or Wilson Line boat. “The boat was cheaper and quicker,” added
the present Mr. Sweeten.
J. Preston Sweeten, who is now 62 years old, was a small boy when Woodrow Wilson toured Salem County in 1911. Wilson, the Governor of New Jersey, stopped in
front of Sweeten’s Store. Mr. Sweeten remembers someone saying, “Governor, some women in the store would like to shake hands with you, but they’re too bashful to
come out.” “Well, I’m not too bashful to go in,” Wilson replied, and he went in and greeted the women clerks.
“During World War I, we were loaded with merchandise,” Mr. Sweeten said. “We used to take truckloads of goods to Penns Grove and sell them to merchants who were
having trouble getting things on account of shortages.”
“We had kerosene tanks, and we were the first in town to sell gasoline for cars. The garages bought from us at first.”
“We used to buy chicken and hog feed by the carload. Father knew value, and he bought big lots.”
J. Preston Sweeten married Miss Ethel McQuiston, of Berwyn, Pa., on September 30,1926. On January 1, 1927, he took over management of the store, though his
father continued to work with him.
Preston P. Sweeten, father of the present proprietor, died in 1940. Just before World war II, J. Preston Sweeten converted the store to a self-service basis with modern
Only prime meat was handled. They are bought in the West, arrive in quarters and are cut at the store.
“We sell ten hindquarters of beef a week,” Mr. Sweeten told me. “There’s a lot of lunch meat bought, but we still sell many steaks and roasts.”
Besides a large stock of groceries and foods of all kinds, there are greeting cards, stationery, drug store items such as toothpaste, creams and packaged medicines, also
paint, hardware and other items found in a general store.
He (J.Preston Sweeten) thinks eventually there will be no more individually owned stores like his, since “nobody wants to take all the trouble or make the necessary
investment of time and money. It will be a sad day for the public, too, when stores like ours are gone, for we have been ports In a storm for many people.”
AN UPDATE TO SWEETEN’S STORY
On July 1, 1970, Hiram Godwin assumed ownership of Sweeten’s Store. The Sweeten ownership era had come to an end after 110 years in business as New Jersey’s
“oldest grocery store that had remained in one family.”
Rae and Charles Walzer purchased the Sweeten building in April 1978 and began preparing to open their shop. The ETC Shop opened on July 5, 1979 as an antique and
used furniture store. Over the years, the shop has transformed into what it is today as a gift, collectibles and country and unpainted furniture store. This year, 1999, the
Walzer’s celebrated their 20th year in business here in Pedricktown.