Schafer's Mercantile


The building, which was located at the northeast corner of 10th and I Streets, had been I.E. Gilbert and Son. Gilbert had started the first grocery store in Modesto at the time of the city's founding. Schafer's was a partnership of Oramil McHenry and his brother-in-law, G.P. Schafer. When Schafer's eventually closed, the Bank of Italy located on this corner.

Employee Pride


This 1911 photo shows a group of staff members posing for the camera. The only identified person is Horace Steele, the smiling young man second from the left (point over photo for information on Horace). The other oddity about this photograph is swastikas on the cigarette boxes in the showcase. The photo predates both World Wars.

Delivering the Goods


Clem Baker, shown above, was a delivery driver for Shafer's. This photo and the one above are part of his personal collection. The delivery vehicle is a 1911 truck loaded down with items from one of Shafer's six different departments, which included a "groceteria," which is defined as a self-serve grocery store.

Shopping at Schafer's

I.E.Gilbert and Sons Becomes Schafer's

In 1898 Oramil McHenry built a new department store building at the northeast corner of 10th and I Streets for I.E. Gilbert and Sons, a company that had begun as a grocery store when Modesto was first founded in 1870. On May 17, 1900, McHenry and his future brother-in-law, George P. Schafer, created a partnership and bought out the company, renaming it The G.P. Schafer Company.

Schafer's was a one-stop shop for Modesto's citizenry. As Tinkham says, "The store has six departments, one being devoted to dry goods and shoes; another to gents' clothing and furnishings; a third to groceries; a fourth to a groceteria; a fifth to household goods, such as kitchen hardware; and a sixth to a bakery. Its mottoes are: 'Everything for Everybody,' 'Quality Good, Prices Fair,' and the good housewife has come to look forward to the newspaper announcements of Schafer's as to the most logical solution in her vexatious problems of housekeeping."

G.P. Schafer Background

Schafer served as a councilman in the first board of trustees of Modesto under the new charter adopted in 1910. He was also very involved in the local Democratic Party, even serving as an alternate to the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis in 1916. He and Oramil McHenry were married to sisters, Shafer to Matilda Conneau in 1893 and McHenry to Myrtie Conneau in 1902.

Schafer also was in charge of the McHenry estate when Oramil died in 1906 and later was instrumental in the funding and building of the First Presbyterian Church on 14th and I Streets in 1911.

Schafer's Interior


The building interior shows a diverse collection of items for sale. In addition to the ground floor, where all the employees are lined up for their official photograph, there is a mezzanine area. The six departments included: dry goods, gents' clothing and furnishings, groceries, a groceteria, household goods and a bakery.

Milliner's Corner


Another photo from Clem Baker's collection shows three women who worked in the millinery area of the store. This looks like it would be primarily for hats and other hair adornmentts for women. The Clem Baker photos were made available by Raeann Bittleston, a relative of Mr. Baker. He lived in Modesto from 1911 to around 1915.

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