Family-owned Idaho mercantile closes after 107 years

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By Mike Anderson

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SWANLAKE, Idaho (KSL) — Thomas Mercantile is likely the only business you’ll notice in Swanlake, but now it is closed.

Kim Thomas says the 107-year-old shop was passed down three generations in his family.

“My great uncle moved up here from Richmond, Utah and opened the store,” he said. “And then his two brothers, which were Chauncey and Moroni; Chauncey was my grandfather, and he ran the store.”

Thomas spent the majority of his life at the family shop.

“I remember as a kid, climbing on stuff, and climbing up the wall,” Thomas said.

He left Swanlake for several years to serve an LDS mission and go to college, but soon got the call to return.

“My parents asked me to come back and take over that store then, because they were getting up in age,” Thomas said.

Inside, the Thomas Mercantile has a wide selection of fabrics, some fishing and hardware items, and the usual convenience store stock. There was a longtime Postal Office attached just next door, where Thomas served as Postmaster.

But more than that he says, it was a place for locals and passers-by to talk.

“I got two or three of the neighbors mad at me, because they’re not going to have a radiator to sit on this winter,” Thomas said. “I’ve been chastised severely the last two or three weeks, ‘where am I gonna get my peanuts?’ Well, I’m not sure.”

Now, almost 70 years old, Thomas decided it was time to make the difficult decision to close up shop.

“It’s in my blood, but my wife died a year ago, and I remarried this spring, so it’s just time,” Thomas said.

Not being “tied to the store,” Thomas said he now has time to visit family, and simply get away.

Still, he said not all is lost for those who have grown to love the old mercantile. He said one person recently came close to buying it, and others have considered it.

Either way, he said he and his family are grateful for the years of loyal customers they’ve seen.

“That’s the part I miss,” Thomas said. “The people camaraderie. It’s small town stuff.”