EAST FALLOWFIELD — Founded in 1818, one general store is run by a family is unwilling to let a pandemic bring them down.
Located at 801 Doe Run Road at the intersection of Route 82 and Buck Run Road in East Fallowfield Township, the mission of Triple Fresh is community focused.
Triple Fresh owner and president Jim Petro Jr.said the safety of their staff and customers come first. He said customers are treated like neighbors and everyone's needs matter.
It is a general store similar to ones showcased in classic 1940s Hollywood films such as It's A Wonderful Life.
People always come first at Triple Fresh.
That’s why the 102-year-old business never shut down during the height of the pandemic in early spring.
The business employs more than 50 employees and most staff kept working alongside the owners with increased safety measures in play.
For eight weeks between March 14 and early May the business shut down for two hours during the day for stringent cleaning.
Afterward, the Petro family fed everyone a gourmet meal to give thanks and in appreciation of everyone’s “unwavering” dedication and hard work to stay open for the community during an unprecedented national crisis which sparked fear, and even panic, across the nation.
The local independent market became Triple Fresh in 1987. Jim Petro II purchased the general store from Lloyd Webster, whose family owned the business until then for three generations beginning in 1863.
The business first opened in 1818 after local Gideon Pierce built the store to serve the growing community, called Ercildoun Village, in the heart of Chester County. Triple Fresh is one of the oldest continually operated food establishments in America. Nearby historic landmarks across the street include the historic People’s Hall and the Followfield Meeting House, built in 1811.
“The church was built here first,” Triple Fresh vice president Jim Petro III said. “It’s part of a vein of Quaker churches that runs through the area.”
The village served as a major hub for the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War. In 1835, villagers, including James Fulton Jr., formed the East Followfield Anti-Slavery Society.
During this era, Gideon Pierce constructed the now historic community grocery store. Pierce's store served as the village's post office, and his family officially established the village's name as Ercildoun.
Pierce, a member of the Followfield Meeting House, was an abolitionist and served as conductor of the Underground Railroad.
“The store was built in 1818 to respond to the needs of the growing village. This is the village,” Petro III said.
Two hundred centuries ago, the store provided the neighbors of Ercildoun with “anything and everything” the town needed. It also remained open for the duration of the Civil War.
Two-hundred-and-two years later, not much has changed. The local independent market continues to provide life essentials to the community.
The Petro family is the first non-Quaker family to own the general store since its inception in 1818.
For more than three decades, the Petros modernized Triple Fresh Market in more ways than one including increasing the venue's space by more than 50 percent.
Today, there is a Philly-style deli and coffee station for customers and plenty of essential grocery items from toilet paper to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The store features many local and regional vendors including Walt’s Swarmbustin’ Honey, Doe Run artisan, gourmet cheeses, OD’s Goodies, Frank’s Country Sausage and fresh milk and eggs from Baily’s Dairy.
Petro has run the store for 33 years. When he first opened the business his children, Jim, Michael, Sandy and Bill, were still young. As they grew up, he allowed them the opportunity to work at Triple Fresh to gain experience and earn incomes.
After leaving home, two sons, Michael and Jim, returned to the village to join the family business and help their father run the local independent market full-time. Micheal is a veteran of the Iraq War and served in the Middle East a little more than a decade ago in 2009.
Everyone in the family supports the business with Michael serving as general manager and his older brother, Jim, serving as Triple Fresh’s vice president.
“It’s humbling,” Petro said of his children’s support of the family business coupled with the fact two of his sons now join him in running the market’s daily operations.
The business also has a catering branch. Due to the pandemic, the Petros returned many deposits to lovebirds forced to cancel their long-expected wedding vows.
Recently, Governor Tom Wolf gave Pennsylvanians the green light to hold weddings, and funerals, again. However there are strict restrictions on the number of guests able to attend. There is a ban on events with more than 250 people present, for instance.
On July 4, Triple Fresh catered its first wedding party for the first time since March 13 when sweeping shutdown mandates began out-of-Harrisburg to mitigate, or “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
“Chester County has recorded 337 deaths overall, 265 of which have been of those in long term care facilities,” said Rebecca Brain, Public Information Officer for the Chester County Commissioners’ Office, on July 15.
As of press deadline for this report, 79 percent of all deaths in Chester County have been residents of assisted living senior care facilities.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Wolf announced the imposing of new restrictions for bars and restaurants statewide. Venues may only seat up to 25 percent of the site's capacity indoors.
The governor ordered all indoor venues closed in the hospitality business on March 13 with fines beginning for non-complying businesses statewide on March 15. Previously, indoor dining had been set at 50% capacity when Chester County moved to a less restrictive "green" phase of reopening at the end of June.
"I thought the most scared I ever saw people was Hurricane Sandy," Petro said. "This really had people shaken up. I've never seen such panic before. Just the look on people's eyes, the actual fear. You wish there was something more you can do."
And although nationwide the recovery rate for COVID-19 is estimated at 99 percent, the pandemic is far from over.
And if Petro has his way, Triple Fresh shall remain open for the community, seven days a week.