How long have you lived in Geauga County? How often have you visited some of the local and neighboring merchants? Have you ever wondered about the history behind their business? Over the next couple months, I am going to explore the history behind some of our favorite places to visit in and around Geauga County and hopefully give you some insight into how they came to be.
To begin the tour, I’m going to start by visiting a place that is very dear to my family’s heart. Have you ever had just one penny in your pocket and wondered, “Is there anything I could buy with this penny?” Well, the answer to that question is YES!
Travel down the country roads, and six miles east of Middlefield, located at routes 87 and 534, you will find End of the Commons General Store. As the name indicates, End of the Commons is located at the end of a park-like setting that has developed over the years and still boasts stately maple trees and beautiful century homes. Today, the Commons sells over 1,000 products in bulk to many Amish families and tourists passing through the area, and for just one penny, you can buy a piece of “penny” candy. Most of the time it was a general store, but it has fulfilled several different services throughout the years: an undertaker’s establishment where handmade coffins were for sale, a post office, and a feed store.
Twenty-five years ago, Ken Schaden and his family found what they were looking for in Mesopotamia. They purchased the general store in 1982. Ken was born and raised in Chicago. He was transferred to Cleveland where he worked for a Cleveland clothing manufacturer. His position was to coordinate all of the clothing operations in the Orient with those operations in Cleveland. Due to the constant travel and pressures that came with this position, Ken and his family felt that a change of jobs would be in order. Ken, living in Mesopotamia, visited the general store quite often to purchase milk, groceries, and penny candy for the children. When the store was for sale, he thought that it would be a great way for his family to work together in a family business and serve the needs of the local community.
Familiar with shopping in bulk for their own large family, the Schadens decided they could best serve the Amish with bulk products at reasonable prices. The old grocery store had to be cleared out in its back rooms to make room for the bulk products. As the cleaning process began, it soon became evident that what was thrown into back rooms and into the basement and attic, was not junk, but store history! They found hundreds of items of old store products, supplies, furniture, and fixtures. Cash registers, scales, needle boxes, dry goods, and actual food products in cans, tins, and boxes dating from the late 19th century!
Today, upon entering the store, one will find on display old clothes, shoes, a barber chair, a post office, a player piano, and many antiques of bygone days on display. Outside the store on a sunny summer afternoon, a visitor may find the Schaden’s collection of cars which range from a 1916 Depot Hack to a 1957 Plymouth. As the Amish community expands, so does the store’s business. Recently, the Commons underwent a large expansion. The store now has a cafe that serves delicious burgers, sandwiches and pizza, and an ice cream counter and fudge counter where home-made fudge is served. All of the Schaden’s eleven children have worked in the store. Currently one son, Peter Schaden, is the general manager and various children work in the store as well. History lives in Mesopotamia and at End of the Commons. The store can be found on the National Register of Historic Places where the tranquility of the “Amish oriented” town has changed little over nearly two centuries.