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Not Your Grandpa’s General Store

Not Your Grandpa’s General Store

  • This story originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of COMO Magazine.
Pierpont General Store Exterior
Pierpont General Store Owners
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Pierpont General Store Owners

Ensconced by Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Pierpont General Store serves up food, fun, and live music.

Conjure up images of a general store and you might envision old men playing checkers on top of a pickle barrel. You won’t see that at today’s Pierpont General Store. But you might find collectors gathered around a table, trading baseball cards on a Wednesday night. 

The store’s history is well documented. It originally stood on a different foundation in the area that’s now Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. The stream that flows out of Devil’s Icebox Cave was dammed and the building was constructed as a grist mill. In 1834, it became the first paper mill west of the Mississippi River, then a whiskey distillery in 1847. In 1889, the structure was moved to its current location at 7650 Missouri Highway 163, where it intersects with Route N. It was a private residence to various families before it opened as a convenience store in the 1960s. 

Back then, it seemed far removed from the growing city of Columbia. There wasn’t much around except for hills, meadows, streams, springs, caves, and forests. In 1967, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park was opened, and on its southern border still stood Pierpont General Store – almost as much of a fixture of the park as the Rock Bridge itself. 

A Matter of Convenience

When it opened as a convenience store, Pierpont primarily served park visitors. They could fill up with gas and grab snacks, drinks, and live fishing worms while enjoying what the rolling, 2,273-acre park has to offer. The Missouri River is just a little under six miles away.

But times change. The development of Columbia started rapidly expanding south. Homes and businesses transformed wooded areas, pastures, and farmland. Pierpont General Store, perched on the park’s southern perimeter, was unfazed — except, of course, more people started discovering the little gem.

In 2004, the 30-some residents of the area celebrated the Boone County Commission’s approval to allow Pierpont to incorporate as a village, insulating the tiny town from the perceived threat of being annexed into Columbia, just two-and-a-half miles away. Today, Pierpont is home to more than 70 residents and, of course, to Pierpont General Store. 

Residents and visitors clamored for the store to become more. The gas pump was outdated and only available during business hours. Lines of vehicles with nowhere to park were a common occurrence as park visitors waited to purchase what they needed at the store. 

Today, local business partners Dan Boes, Scott Braudis, and Daniel Beckett own Pierpont General Store. The trio closed on the sale in May 2021 after the previous owners made improvements that allowed the store to flourish even during the height of the pandemic. The addition of the café and bar, heated enclosed deck, and large outdoor patio made Pierpont a go-to when everything else was shuttered. 

Long-time patrons often worry about change when new ownership comes along. Dan says the ownership team has heard a lot of concerns from people who have frequented the store for years. And while there are plans for improvements, the team recognizes the value of the store’s history. 

“If you walk into the store, it still has the creaky floorboards that are original,” Dan says, admitting that when one breaks, they have to find an old board to replace it. “We’re really trying to keep consistent with the history and the aesthetic of the store while offering new things, such as products from local vendors.”

Shoppers can still buy toilet paper, snacks, and fishing worms at the store. They can even use debit and credit cards to buy gas any time of day. But Pierpont is much more than a convenience store. 

It’s a Destination

Pierpont residents Craig and Charlotte Brumfield have been patronizing the store since they moved there in 2015. They say they used to go for things like gas, candy, drinks, eggs, and bread. But when the café and bar opened, it became so much more to them. 

“We continue to patronize the store for gas, emergency items, and Dippin’ Dots for our granddaughter,” Charlotte says. “We also like to visit the heated deck for happy hour when it is cold outside and have brunch on the patio. We love to listen to live music, and the addition of the outdoor stage and some great talent make Pierpont General Store a fun and convenient night out.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Brumfields and a neighbor travel to and from the store on Craig’s golf cart. Parking for them, they say, is never a problem. As parking expands, it becomes less of a problem for others, too. 

The energy and atmosphere attract a lot more people who have figured out how close Pierpont is to wherever they live in Columbia. During the warmer months, the patio is filled with people grabbing a bite to eat, something to drink, and listening to live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, and some Sunday brunches. 

Dan says that one of the attractions of Pierpont may be the older demographic the store attracts. It’s not overfilled with college students like many other places in Columbia. Performers like it, too. Dan says he’s currently receiving about five requests per week from talent wanting to book a performance, although it can be tough to make sure they’re the right type for the venue. 

“It’s kind of hard to know which bands will fit the vibe,” Dan says. “Because we are surrounded by a state park and residential housing, we have expressed to our neighbors that we won’t overdo it. We make sure we keep the volume pretty low and have the band stop playing at a respectable hour.”

Dan says there have been a few exceptions to closing hours, such as when beating the summer heat, taking advantage of longer daylight hours, and when hosting wedding receptions. But Pierpont’s owners are committed to being a good neighbor.  

Doing Good Means Doing Well – For Everyone

What about those three slow months during the winter? Pierpont has that covered. The store hosts celebrity bartender events where locals serve drinks to raise money for a charity of their choice. People can put donations into the “golden charity bucket” which are donated directly to the bartender’s charity. Pierpont General Store kicks in 10 percent of the bar proceeds to the charity. 

What started as a way to fill the place during the winter has become hot competition. Dan says that’s great because it’s all benefitting local charities. Although Pierpont promotes these events on social media, the celebs are doing their own efforts to raise money. There’s an added incentive this year: Pierpont is awarding the top-earning bartender $250 for their charity. 

Craig is one of those celebrity bartenders. He and Charlotte are all in to raise money for P.E.A.C.E. 

“I’m, by nature, very competitive, so when they added a prize this year for the top bartender, we for sure had a conversation about winning,” Craig says. Craig and Charlotte’s fundraising goal was $1,500 and they raised $2,653 for a local nonprofit. 

“The event is a win-win for all involved as it brings people to the Pierpont General Store during the non-peak season, introduces some new folks to the establishment, and it’s a good time,” Charlotte says. “Most importantly, the event raises unexpected funds for organizations in our community.”

Old Store. Big Future. 

Pierpont General Store is hosting The Trail Running Film Festival this year from 7-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 26. The touring global festival showcases inspiring short films created by trail runners about their sport. Hosting the film fest is another way to add dimension and variety to what Pierpont offers. 

“Columbia has such a unique trail-running community and environment,” Dan says. “We want to bring everyone together to connect over a sport that is so empowering. It just seems so fitting for Pierpont since we are surrounded by Rock Bridge State Park.”

Dan, Scott, and Daniel are making plans to continue upgrading what Pierpont General Store offers to its customers, like adding convenience, products, and expanding the café’s menu. They want to create a space that everyone can enjoy. 

This local institution has changed a lot over the years and will continue to evolve. Rest assured that fishermen will always be able to get bait there. Neighbors can stock up on toilet paper and fresh local eggs. Patrons can buy some Pierpont and Rock Bridge swag.

It’s all grist for a former mill brought from the past to the present — and, no doubt, to the future. 

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