SOUTH SHORE, Ky. —A.H. Bryson & Sons, Bryson General Store (BGS) 2378 State Route 784 in South Shore, Ky. has not only been operating in South Shore, Ky. for 106 years, it is also an important part of the local history and culture.
Since it’s inception in 1910, Bryson’s General Store is still going strong, something many did not foresee happening, according to Bonnie Bryson, one of the third generation BGS owners.
“Bryson General Store is the oldest continuously operating store of it’s type in the county, and as far as I know we are the oldest,” Bonnie Bryson said. “One thing that has been a persistent thing, especially after our dad died people assumed that the store would close, and sometimes we still have to deal with that, but it never did. We missed one weekend the week mom was buried, other than that someone has been here every week.”
A photo board timeline of the business is located in the front of the store.
“This timeline was done when we were celebrating 100 years of the business in 2010. Our grandparents A. H. ”Huse” Bryson and his wife Elizabeth Bryson, our grandparents started the business in 1910. They were formerly one-room school teachers in the area, and then they went into the store business,” Bonnie Bryson said.
The timeline for the Bryson family from 1909-2013 consists of the following:
1909 A.H “Huse”Bryson marries Elizabeth Callihan Bryson, both are teachers in Greenup Co., Ky. one-room schools
1910-Huse and Elizabeth Bryson start the store, A.H. Bryson & Son. The store is located on Bryson Farm, one of the dowry farms that George Dortch, who once owned all of Schultz, gave his daughters when they married. Dortch’s daughter Martha married A.H. Bryson (the first) around 1845-46 and inherited the farm. Huse is the 4th generation on the family farm.
1910- Huse and Elizabeth’s first son, Arthur Howard “Tom” Bryson is born.
1912- Second son James “Jim” Edward Bryson is born; now the store is A.H. Bryson & Sons.
Dec. 1915- J.D. Bryson (Huse’s father) is appointed Walsh postmaster and PO moves to the store.
Dec. 1932- Elizabeth Bryson appointed Walsh Postmaster.
1947 -Jim Bryson marries Gladys Hannah
1949- Betty Bryson born to Jim & Gladys
1951- Robert Huston Bryson born to Jim & Gladys
1952 – Store moves into new block building. Huse includes Betty and Bob on the store’s sign.
1953 – Bonnie Bryson is born to Jim & Gladys.
1956 -Elizabeth Bryson retires as Walsh Postmaster; the PO is discontinued.
Jan. 1960 – “Huse” dies, store is left to Jim. Huse’s will indicates he hopes that someday the store will pass to his grandchildren.
1966- The Schultz Creek baseball field across the road from store is started and Bob maintains it to this day. About the same time a basketball goal was added at edge of
store parking lot.
1967 -Wareroom added to building.
1968-Sometime around this time Jim starts using Bryson General Store in ads as the common name for the business (A.H. Bryson & Sons is still the official business name).
1969 – The Letitia PO is briefly moved to Bryson’s Store, with Gladys Bryson appointed as interim Postmaster. The USPS discontinues the Letitia Post Office the same year.
1973 – Elizabeth Bryson dies.
2001 -Tom Bryson dies.
March 2002 – Jim Bryson dies; store passes in joint ownership to his wife Gladys and their children with Gladys primary owner/operator.
2010 – Store celebrates 100 years in business.
July 2012 – Gladys Bryson dies; store passes to Bonnie, Bob, and Betty; store is open on Saturdays only.
2013 – Live music by local pickers begins on 3rd Saturday each month.
Bob Bryson, the brother of Bonnie and one of the third generation BGS owners, said he can recall the cheap cost of items many years ago.
“What I can remember is the pricing of things,” Bob Bryson said. “I can remember coming down here when you could buy a little bottle of Coke for six cents, a 12-ounce bottle of pop was eight cents, and candy bars were a nickel. You also had nickel bag, and 10-cent bag of potato chips, the short cigarettes with no filter were 20 cents, and filtered cigarettes were 22 cent a pack. I am 64 years old, and I remember those kind of prices.”
Betty Bryson Carr, the oldest of the third generation of Brysons, reminisced about the postal service component of the business.
“In the old store my great grandfather, JD Bryson was Postmaster. Then when he stopped doing it his brother in law Elizabeth Bryson became postmistress after that,” Bryson Carr said. “When we built the new store, this was put in and she did this until 1956. So I was born in 1949, so during those years when I got big enough, she would help me sort mail.”
Working in the store as a child served as a very special experience for Betty Bryson Carr.
“It was always a very special time, just to be with my grandma. I was the oldest one, and I was at the right age to do that,” Bryson Carr said. “For us, the store was actually the oldest, biggest member of the family. It was like a human being. When does the store wake up? When do we open it? When does the store go to sleep? When do we close it? We never opened on Sunday. We stop here and pick up ice cream, and if someone saw us they could purchase something if they needed it. Otherwise, it was six days a week.”
BGS is perceived by the Bryson family as a member of the family.
“When my grandparents became elderly, it became more of an issue of us leaving town. Then when my grandfather died it all fell to us,” Bryson Carr said. “We stopped taking family vacations. Your life changes when you have a family business. It’s a member of the family.”
The success and longevity of BGS has been a blessing to the Bryson family down through the generations.
“The store underwent changes about the time I was getting ready to go to college the second half of the building was built, and they increased the business, and were able to put all three of us through college and me through medical school and we never owed anybody a dime,” Bryson Carr said. “It was a real gift to exit our education, college, medical school and not owe anybody. They believed in saving and planning for the future.”
BGS continues to operate every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with live picking entertainment on the third Saturday of each month beginning at noon.
For more information call 606-932-9975, or visit the Bryson General Store Facebook page.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT>