Heriford Store closes in Thornfield

The Heriford Store in Thornfield closed Feb. 5, leaving the community without a grocery / convenience store for the first time in more than 100 years. The store building and a nearby home, owned by Juanita and Kenny Heriford, is for sale. Times photos / Jenny Yarger

For the first time in more than 100 years, there’s no grocery / convenience store in Thornfield, following the closing of the Heriford Store on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Juanita Heriford, who bought the store on Highways 95 and JJ 12 years ago with her husband, Kenny, said Monday it was a hard decision, but operating the business was just no longer feasible.

She already misses visiting with her former customers. “There are some really good people down there,” she said. The building and a nearby house where the Herifords’ granddaughter lives is now for sale, listed with United Country Realty. 

The store building was built in 1968 by the late Hervil Gaulding and his wife,  Virginia Heriford Gaulding. A few years earlier, the Gauldings had bought from Chet and Toni Watson the store across the street. But soon they opted to move from that store building into a new building they constructed on the opposite side of Highway 95. Chester Lyday, then the carpentry instructor at Gainesville High School, laid the concrete blocks for the building.

After five or six years, the Gauldings sold the store to Virginia’s brother and his wife, John and Barbara Heriford. Greg Donley, now the Ozark County western district commissioner, leased the store for a while. Finally, it was sold to John Heriford’s distant cousin, Kenny Heriford and his wife Juanita, who has operated the store in recent years with her granddaughter. Kenny Heriford also has an excavating business.

Closing the store is another step in the commercial decline of Thornfield, which was “once a booming little town with two grocery stores and a filling station,” Juanita said. In last week’s Times Past section, the Times published a photo of the Thornfield store operated in the early 1900s by the late James and Ida Kyle. The July 25, 2018, Times Past section featured a photo of another Thornfield store that was operated from the 1930s until 1956 by the late Elmer Delp. 

Other Thornfield businesses through the years have included a cafe, a tire shop and even a car dealership. Greg Donley recalled Monday that for a while it was even possible to purchase a new Chevrolet from Arthur Viles’ Thornfield business – although mostly he bought old taxis and repainted them to sell, Donley said.

Now the Donley Feed Mill and a seasonal tackle shop, Otter Kreek, are the last businesses left, except for the post office. The Thornfield School, with its 50-some elementary students, is just up the hill. 

For the last 12 years, six days a week, Juanita has awakened around 5 a.m. She would drive from the Herifords’ home near Romance, arriving at the store in Thornfield by 6 a.m. and opening for business by 6:30. “Wade Turner was there every morning for breakfast,” she said, “and a lot of the guys from the feed mill would eat lunch at the store.” She made them sandwiches and served Hunt Brothers pizza. 

To help ease their lunchtime hunger pangs, she’s told the feed mill guys she’ll bring them a Crockpot of chili this Friday. 

During the winter, the Heriford store closed at 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. on weekends. In summer, it stayed open until 6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate the “lake traffic.”

“Those 12- and 13-hour days can get really long,” Juanita said.

She acknowledged that the decision to close the store was a sad one – not only for the Herifords but also for their customers. “I was down there today,” she said Monday, “and as I was leaving, H.K. Gaulding – his dad built the store originally – stopped by and said, ‘It’s not too late to change your mind!’ I just smiled.”

Ozark County Times

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