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It all started quite innocently January 1, 1970. On New Year’s Day, my wife, Sherry, and I had watched as many marching bands and football bowl games as we could stand.

We had read about an auction close to home that included several antique slot machines. We looked at each other and we were off! We had talked about how much fun it would be to have one in our house. How did we know how easy it is to own one? There really isn’t much to it. At auction, you simply have to be the last guy in the crowd to have his hand in the air. Easy enough.

We were on our way.

Coca-Cola “Slow School Zone” policeman

Chuck Krull in his SACKS General Store with a Coca-Cola “Slow School Zone” policeman sign. The 5-foot-tall, two-sided, embossed-tin officer is set on a heavy cast-iron pedestal. First produced in the 1950s, the Coke cop sign was available to schools all over the country to warn drivers of students crossing the street. 

We purchased everything that we liked, and thought was cool; and before long, we had eight slot machines and three garages full of primitives! Many people were decorating their homes with them, and we were building an out-of-control inventory.

It seemed like there were many advertising items that blend in well with the primitives: flour sacks, milk scales and bottles, egg and butter cartons, coffee and tobacco tins, and every other kind of tin or wood container. We built a two-story barn on the footprint of a four-car garage to store our treasures and in a very short period of time it was filled.

This was fun!

Red Goose Shoes

A Red Goose Shoe display gave children a chance to win a golden egg with a toy inside with the purchase of a pair of shoes. The neck of the goose sitting on a nest was pulled forward and a golden egg rolled out underneath. The Red Goose Shoe Co. of St. Louis began selling shoes in 1869.

Over time, Sherry and I acquired several signs that advertised kitchen items, food items, painting materials and hardware. When we started noticing products related to the advertising signs, it just made sense to start collecting them and lining the items on shelves below the corresponding signs. And with more signs, there were more items, and then of course, more shelving.

What we didn’t realize was that we were accumulating inventory for a store. It was small scale, but it is now housed in a 5,000-plus square foot downtown building in Berne, Indiana. Instead of “build it and they will come,” we collected it and then had to build!

SACKS General Store in Berne, Indiana, features 2,500-square feet of such groupings as tobacco, food, hardware, canned goods, notions and pharmaceuticals on the first floor. Another 2,500-square feet on the second floor is used for living space and antique toys. 

SACKS General Store in Berne, Indiana, features 2,500-square feet of such groupings as tobacco, food, hardware, canned goods, notions and pharmaceuticals on the first floor. Another 2,500-square feet on the second floor is used for living space and antique toys. 

I have always liked general stores, especially ones that are still open and can be experienced. Driving through the downtown of an old, small town or city has always made me both comfortable and excited. I appreciate all of the buildings with the brick and glass, the etched stone, the charming architecture and the storefronts. Sherry and I decided that if we were going to be serious about pursuing what had started over forty years ago, we would have to find an old brick building in a small town to authentically house our collection. Well, we did it!

We ultimately established what we called the “SACKS General Store” on Main Street in a small, Midwestern town, about an hour south of our daughter’s home in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The sturdy brick commercial building that houses the store was constructed in 1881. While not open to the public, the SACKS General Store welcomes visits from enthusiastic collectors, such as members of Antique Advertising Association of America. Arrangements must be made in advance.

A sturdy brick commercial building built in 1881 houses SACKS General Store.

A sturdy brick commercial building built in 1881 houses SACKS General Store.

Why SACKS? SACKS stands for “Sherry And Chuck Krull’s Store.”

In this article, I have shared a selection of images from the SACKS General Store. As you can see, the collection covers quite a bit of ground, including a wide variety of tin, porcelain, cardboard and paper signs and posters; floor, counter, and hanging product displays; tin, cardboard, glass and other containers (many with contents); store counters and display cases of all types, and other items that might have been found in a general store of yesteryear. One of my favorite genres is die-cut signs and numerous examples can be found throughout the collections.

SACKS General Store

SACKS General Store includes many display containers with content in them, just as you would see in a functioning general store back in the day.

The store is organized into various groupings, such as tobacco, food, coffee, clothing, hardware, candy, bread, notions, canned goods, potato chips, pharmaceuticals and many more.

Our living quarters are located on the second story of the building, serviced by a modern elevator. A large collection of antique toys is also on the second level.

Moore's Air Tight Heater

An ornate, blue-porcelain, Moore’s Air Tight Heater, with polished nickel in mint condition, warms the heart of visitors to SACKS General Store.  

It’s just kind of neat to bring back a part of the past. It’s like a class reunion. You just feel good about these memories that you enjoyed and there is something about that. People who visit will say, “I remember those!” or “Do you have any…?” or “My mom used to…”. “Can we take pictures?” Yes, but please do not touch the merchandise.

Hobby to passion, a life-long commitment. The hunt for treasure. Shared memories. I hope you enjoy this photographic tour of the SACKS General Store.

Quick Quaker Oats

Vintage Quick Quaker Oats counter display.

Star Mill Coffee Grinder

A beautiful cast iron Star Mill coffee grinder manufactured in Philadelphia, circa late 19th century, highlights the coffee area of SACKS.

Stephenson Underwear Display

Chuck and Sherry Krull found this rare, 3-foot tall, steel die cut advertising display for Stephenson Underwear, South Bend, Indiana, about 30 years ago while rummaging through a chicken coop during an estate sale in Davis, Illinois. In brief, the display is about 100 years old and now stands in the couple’s bedroom. 

Vintage Post Cereals

A vintage Post Cereals cardboard display provides graphic context to the breakfast offerings of the time.

Pearl Wire Cloth

A vintage die-cut cardboard display for Pearl Wire Cloth Screens from Gilbert & Bennett.

Sunbeam Girl

Below the store’s decorative tin-ceiling sits a die-cut cardboard Little Miss Sunbeam, the longtime mascot of Sunbeam Bread.

Antique Advertising Association of America

This story first appeared in PastTimes, the official newsletter of the Antique Advertising Association of America. The AAAA is America’s largest club for collectors of all popular and antique advertising. For more information go to www.pastimes.org.

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