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Stories from the valley

Monteverde General Store: Shopping in the Early Twentieth Century

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

When we think of shopping today, places like Amazon, Costco, and malls come to mind. They’re a far cry from the simpler days when one-stop shopping had an entirely different meaning. The Monteverde General Store in Sutter Creek is a unique time capsule, enabling visitors to experience the sights and scents of a bygone era.

John Monteverde, Sr. left Genoa, Italy in 1860 and began a life in Sutter Creek in 1861. After working in the gold mines for several years, he became a stonemason and built many of the stone and cement walkways around the town. In 1896, Monteverdi with his son John Jr. opened his general store outfitted with hardware, dry goods, and just about everything else needed for life in a small town.

John Sr. died in 1918, and the operation of the store was taken over by his daughters, Mary and Rose. The sisters ran the store until October 27, 1971, when they locked the doors and placed a sign in the window stating, “This store will be closed for a few days.” Mary died in August of 1972, and her despondent sister never reopened the store.

The doors remained locked until 1992, when the city of Sutter Creek opened the store as a museum. Walking through the doors transports visitors back to the early 1900’s. You’ll find the walls lined with many antique goods, equipment, clothing, and even preserves still in their original jars.

The store is located at 11 Randolph St. in Sutter Creek and can be viewed by calling Bob at (209) 267-0493. You can also call in advance and schedule a time for a tour, to make sure he’s available. My family and I called Bob from the front porch of the shop, and he appeared in about five minutes. He was a wonderful host with lots of information and showed us all around the store. We were the only ones there for a short while, but we were soon joined by several other curious visitors when they saw that the museum was open.

For more information about the Monteverde General Store, click here. I would recommend combining a visit to the store with a tour of the Knight Foundry, also in Sutter Creek, and allowing plenty of time to walk around the side streets of this wonderful Gold Rush-era town.