Old Photos of Yuma


Mustain's closing is end of an era

Written by Tony Rayl   

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Luther and Earl Mustain are seen in the far corner in this photo taken inside MustainRalph and Millie Lockwood are pictured on the balcony overlooking Mustain    It's been a fixture in downtown Yuma for a century.
    Mustain's will be closing its doors after exactly 100 years of operating as a grocery store, first opened by Luther A. Mustain in 1913 in the location at Third Ave. and S. Main that now is home to the Tavern. It moved to its current location, at Second Ave. and S. Main in 1917.
    It has been there ever since.
    Ralph and Millie Lockwood, who have operated Mustain's since Earl Mustain, L.A.'s son, retired in the mid-1970s, announced recently that they will be closing the doors for good at the end of business Saturday, September 28.
    “It's sad; that's the consensus I get from the people I talk to,” said Joan Olsen, daughter of Earl and Alice Mustain. “It's the end of an era for sure. I grew up in that store.”
    According to the “It's Your Museum” piece by Doris Mekelburg in the June 1, 1989 edition of the Pioneer, the Mustain's store at the corner of S. Main and Second Ave. at first was an L-shaped store with a grocery section and a drygoods section. A bank was on the corner, with Webb Martin's law offices just behind it on Second Ave. The door to the grocery section opened off of Second Ave. while the door to the dry goods store opened off of Main St. just north of the bank building.
    Olsen recalled that the Second Ave. side used to have two big display windows (one can see where they were by the different-color bricks on that side of the building).
    “My mom often made elaborate displays for the weekends,” Olsen said, recalling that one time her mother spray painted a huge tumbleweed silver, and decorated it with tiny glass balls.
    Speaking of the holidays, Ward Deering shared his memories of how the upper balcony in Mustain's used to be full of Christmas trees every year leading up to the holiday.
    “Around the first of December the trees arrived at the back door of Mustain's where the clerks climbed the stairs and attached them one by one with twine for display to the edge of the inside balcony on the north and west sides of the building,” Deering wrote. “As the display grew to the length and breadth of the entire store, the store took on the unmistakable aroma of a pine forest. It seemed that hundreds of the fresh-cut trees (but probably less) were on display and ready for selection.
    “Soon, excited children and their parents were pushing shopping carts down the aisles, ready to select their tree. A clerk was summoned to once again climb the stairs where they were directed from below with a 'No not that one, the next one,' until the correct choice was handed down.
    “These trees were not to be confused with the fancy farm-raised trees that are sold today,” Deering shared. “They didn't have full, fat, thick needles and branches. These old-timers were — by today's standards — spindly weaklings with skinny tops that wouldn't support an angel or star without help from a baling wire wrapped carefully around their spindly trunks.”
    Olsen recalled one year there was a tree with a damaged top, so her mother took it home and nurtured it to health. She said it is now the huge blue spruce at the house where she and husband Max live at 420 W. Fourth Ave.
    One can walk into Mustain's today and see there is a cement floor on the south side, and wood floor to the north. Where the floors meet is where a brick wall used to be, Lockwood explained last year, separating the grocery story from the bank.
    The narrow section at the far north end, where the freezer section now resides, was a restaurant run by various people through the decades.
    The building also was initially a one-story building, with the upstairs added in the first decades of the last century. There was a dentist office upstairs, and apartments.
    “I used to work in there on Friday's,” Olsen said. “As soon as school was over, I was there stamping cans.”
    Friday was when the freight car came in with all the goods, just in time for the big rush.
    “Saturdays was the big day,” Olsen said. “Everyone came to town and we stayed open until 9 p.m. One of my jobs was to keep filling 10-pound bags of potatoes. I always hated that job because there were always rotten ones.
    “It was quite a deal,” she said of the old-day Saturdays. “You would see everyone.”
    Olsen said she never worked as a cashier as she preferred spending her summers working as a lifeguard at the swimming pool.
    However, for her father it was everything. Though her grandfather founded the store, and was a great idea man, she said it was Earl who really made the store go through the decades.
    Following his death in April 1996, it was written that “The Mustain store was always the center of his life from the time he was able to walk until he retired in 1975. Even when in college, he came home on weekends on the train to help in the store. In 1917, when 10 years old, his father made him a full-time clerk, during the manpower shortage of World War I. He purchased the business in the early “40s” and guided its transformation from general mercantile store to a modern grocery.”
    Lockwood's father joined the operation in 1967, and Ralph returned from a stint in the military in August of that year. He said he and his brother Phil did a lot of carpentry work renovating the grocery store, and then he worked helping in the store on Saturdays.
    Earl Mustain retired in the mid-1970s, and Ralph and his dad and Millie kept the store going, and Ralph and Millie continue it to this day.
    However, the time has come as Ralph and Millie look toward having some free time, after operating the store six days a week for the past several decades. Special sales are available in Mustain's final days, after which several employees will be searching for a new job.
    Get in there while you can for one last visit to the dying icon of a downtown corner grocery store. It might be the last one you ever enter.



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