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Randsburg General Store owner, Brad Myers prepares a soda behind the iconic antique soda fountain. / Laura Austin Photo

Randsburg General Store closes after more than 100 yrs

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–

On Tuesday, August 16, the Randsburg General Store (Store) announced via social media, “End of an era…It is with a heavy heart and deep regret that we tell you all that the historical Randsburg General Store will be closing. We were able to make it through: * The Pandemic * Out of country travelers banned from flying to the US due to COVID * Difficulty in obtaining our regular product(s) * Lack of customers during the summer months * High gas prices * The fact that the cost to operate has doubled in many areas, from food to utilities and more.”

Owner Brad Myers is keeping the store open through September and moving up the road to The Vault on October 1st. “We’re hoping that our people that come here will follow us to that place.” Myers was approached by a customer who proposed a social media GoFundMe to finance the purchase. “I don’t want this to go away and my wife, Carol Dyer, is really emotional about losing this place. But, you never know what can happen. We’re open to all different options. But the reality is, it looks like we’re moving up the street.” He also owns the T-shirt shop next door to the Store, Mad Ink Designs. “Everybody thinks it is a tattoo shop, but it’s T-shirts.”

   The Randsburg General Store has been serving area residents and visitors since the turn of the 20th Century. It has been handed from owner to owner since 1903. Myers entered into a lease-to-own purchasing agreement on January 1, 2016. The option to purchase came due at the start of the pandemic. Instead of immediately financing a purchase, Myers had to use what he saved for a down payment to keep the business afloat during the pandemic. Now, during the slowest season of the year, the owner more than doubled the asking price and gave him notice.

“It’s such a unique place,” says Myers, “because it’s really one of the last continuously running soda fountains in the nation. That’s why we’re so sad that we have to shut down.” He explains, “The cost of operation is just killing us.” We are all familiar with the cost of gas but that is just a piece of the cost increase. The Store sells hamburgers, “We don’t use just regular hamburger, we use chopped sirloin. The thing about the top sirloin is when we started out they were about $18 a box for 30 patties. Now they’re up to $57.”

The seller’s timing couldn’t be worse for the Store. Business in the historic mining town is seasonal and these hot summer months are the downtime. “The population goes from a town of 50 people during the summer too on holiday weekends we have over 200,000 people that camp within a 20-mile radius of this place. On Thanksgiving, we’re open from the Friday before Thanksgiving till the Sunday after. We do almost 1000 burgers a day for 10 days straight,” says Myers. “We go from feast to famine in the summer.”

   This is a sad story from a very upbeat business. “If you’re not having fun here, you have no business being here because that’s what we’re all about,” laughs Myers. Regulars have given the staff nicknames: Brad Myers is Brad Pitt (which you can believe with his fair hair and blue eyes) and there are Loraine Ababa who works the register, Carole King, and Linda Ronstadt lives down the street. “We have a little bit of everything.”

 

Randsburg General Store Owner, Brad Myers and his wife, Carol Dyer. / Laura Austin Photo

Most notable, and what you will not want to miss before it closes, is the ice cream counter with floor mounted soda fountain counter stools with the original leather upholstery. All are in great condition. Legend has it that the antique soda fountain was shipped around the horn from Boston to Pasadena and arrived in Randsburg by wagon in 1904. Once upon a time, the marble countertop was covered with leather upholstery. “One local family used to own this place.” A descendant said, ”When she was a little girl, she was messing with the upholstery that was on the counter and she ripped a hole in it. They didn’t realize that the original people that brought this here wrapped the marble countertop in the upholstery for shipping and they never took it off. So once she had ripped the hole in the thing, the parents were like, ‘Oh my gosh!’” It has been proudly displayed and in service ever since. 

“We make some of the best Black Bart’s banana splits. The blueberry shakes are the best but my wife, she’s old school, she does nothing but chocolate malts. And you know, we’ll get people in that come in and want a Cherry Bomb which is a cherry soda with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream in it.”

The Store also carries useful items for the dirt bike clientele who camp nearby. There are shelves with essential items, canned goods, hats, and sunscreen. The most popular item: Toothbrushes. Seems like lots of folks forget to bring their toothbrushes. 

Randsburg General Store on Butte Ave during a recent Old West Days celebration. / Laura Austin Photo

Celebrities like Randsburg and the Store has had their share of famous visitors. “We get everybody you can imagine coming in here. The movie, ”Dog,” that was just filmed last year and came out in May or June with Channing Tatum – they were here for three days filming for the movie. We were the food supplier for all three days. And my cook tells everybody she got to kiss the star of the movie, which wasn’t Channing Tatum. It was a dog that was actually in the movie.” 

Myers used to be one of those holiday/weekend visitors. As a dirt biker, it was a few years before he knew how to get to Randsburg using highways. “We used to camp in California City and it’s about a 26 mile ride to get here. In our group we’d have everybody from Old Man Camaret who was 83-84 years old to kids that are seven or eight years old.” One learned the way to Randsburg from relatives and the folks in your group. “There are trails. There is a whole 360 degree radius around this town that people come from Wagon Wheel and Jawbone and Dove Springs and California City and Four Corners down here. They come from Barstow. On their bikes, no paved roads.

“The Navy SEALs used to come and train for their desert warfare before going to Afghanistan and Iran. Goat Brecker used to be an old motocross racer, and he got the contract to teach these young kids how to ride dirt bikes, how to do side-by-sides, how to get them back on four wheels if you tip them over, how to change tires, how to keep them running. These guys are straight out of the country, most of them farm boys that just have never experienced anything like this. So this is where they would come to do their training.”

Myers appreciates the historic significance of Randsburg and wants to keep the town alive by reopening at The Vault, a historic building whose vault once stored dynamite for the mines. “That’s why we’re not abandoning the town. We’re just moving to a smaller location to cut our operating costs. We’ll have ice cream and shakes and stuff like that” For special occasions they will make their iconic ice cream dishes. ”Probably more on the holiday weekends just because it’s a little harder to find help right now. We’ll basically have the same food we have here.” They will continue to carry useful non-food items.