VERONA – In 1970, Rose and John Gunkel bought an auto dealership in Verona, turning it into a convenience store and a three-bay auto repair shop.
“John would work for free for senior citizens,” Rose Gunkel said, “only charging the cost of the parts.”
In 1973, NCR laid her off, and her husband suggested she join him at the store. She has run the store ever since he died in 1977.
In February, the store, now open from noon through 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Rose Gunkel is 82. Neither shows signs of fading.
There have been changes. In 1970, the Gunkels sold gasoline (“at 27 cents a gallon”), but that ended in 1999.
“I wasn’t making money,” Gunkel explained. “People were stealing gas while I was inside with other customers.”
The deli, with hamburgers, fries, pizza and coffee are also gone.
“Coffee was 35 cents a cup, and one customer would ride a bike from Union for it, but I couldn’t be back there and up front at the same time.”
Once she came from the back to find beer missing. The next day, some men bought scratch-off lottery tickets, throwing away the losing ones—or so they thought. As they left, Gunkel looked in the wastebasket and saw a winning ticket worth $50.
“I ran out to give it to them, but they were gone,” she said. “That ticket paid for the stolen beer.”
The store has been broken into over the years, and once a customer at the pop machine outside grabbed her as she locked up to go to the bank. He got the money and damaged her hand so badly she needed surgery and today has a misshapen ring finger.
Now a motion detector beeps when someone is in the store.
The boarded-up front window also discourages break-ins, but she doesn’t need to display merchandise to entice people inside to buy pop, canned goods, tobacco products, lottery tickets, snack food or other miscellany. People in Verona and the surrounding area are glad not to drive to Brookville or Lewisburg for last-minute purchases.
While Gunkel talked to the Star, for example, Ted Delk came to buy ice for his Bank House Coffee Shop down the street. He had $15 with him, and when the total came to $15.45 Gunkel handed him a can of spare change so he could find the extra 45 cents.
Her prices often are not as high as in other convenience stores. She sells 20-ounce bottles of 7-UP products for $1.29, and a can of Campbell’s soup was marked $0.99.
“I go to town, buy bargains, and mark them up a little,” she said.
The store also has a community bulletin board.
The residents return her loyalty. During a snowstorm, three people came to the store to take her home to her nearby house and to clear her sidewalk.
Asked how long she’ll run the store, she said, “Until God calls me.”
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