Unkel Joe’s Woodshed celebrates 65 year milestone in county
FLEMINGTON — A proud Lock Haven staple is celebrating 65 years of life with many years to look forward to.
Unkel Joe’s Woodshed has been the area’s favorite gift store since its incarnation all the way back in 1956. Since then, the store has gone through many changes, however its charm and heart have stayed the same.
Unkel Joe’s was started by ‘Unkel’ Joseph Anderson all those years ago. The gem of a store is a hotspot for outdoorsmen, hobbyists, craft lovers, holiday cheer, and everything in between. As the store’s old slogan goes, says sporting goods retailer Steve McGill, “You Can’t find everything but you might find something.”
That slogan is still printed at the top of the store to this day, he added.
“Unkel” Joe started the store after using the building as a way to sell distressed or discounted merchandise from the JC Penney that resided in Lock Haven, McGill said.
The current general manger of the business, Ross Nevel said that “Unkel” Joe would have big fire sales and sparked the idea to commit that fashion into his own business. A man by the name of James P. Webb owned the building that still stands to this day and sold it to Joe. Originally planned to be a car dealership, as it was built for that purpose, the plans changed with the new ownership by “Unkel” Joe, Nevel said.
After that moment, Nevel related that Joe would drive all over, purchasing random odds and ends such as clothing, lingerie, yard goods, sporting goods, toys and sell them as distressed merchandise at the “Woodshed.” Every Monday, he would drive around with his employees, scowering for possible merchandise they could buy and resell to consumers.
“Back then, Joe Anderson would go around and buy products to resell as distressed merchandise with Unkel Joe’s. He would go every Monday and Tuesday and buy different clothes, house items, etc. and resell at the store Wednesday through Saturday,” said Nevel. “They had everything from clothing, shoes, sporting goods, yard goods, nylons, lingerie, etc. We had all of those things up until I got here in ’95. We still had clothing but by then, we switched to brands like Carhartt.”
Due to the changing times and modernization, the store went from selling distressed merchandise to regular merchandise. The one thing that stays true to Unkel Joe’s is being the top holiday shop in the county. Each season, the holiday themed room called “The Four Seasons Room” changes its colors as the holidays go in and out.
However, Christmas time seems to be a peak moment for that portion of the shop. Trees line the room and there are glistening lights and decorations a plenty for everyone’s specific tastes. Whether it is a cozy country style Christmas or a flashy multicoloured Christmas, Unkel Joe’s has it.
The holiday staple of the shop began with “Unkel” Joe’s first wife, Bunny when she ran her shop in what used to be the downstairs portion of the building. He had two girls with her, Bobby and Patty.
“There used to be a downstairs, where the Christmas room used to be. It was called Aunt Bunny’s Yule Stooga,” said Nevel.
However, the downstairs is no longer a part of the shop due to issues with the weather in the winter, Nevel said. The hill that led to the former downstairs portion of the store was an issue with the treacherous winters at the time, he added. The now seasonal room was moved to what was then their stock room.
Having redone that, Nevel said they did not have to fight with the ice and snow in the winter anymore. The change happened around 30 years ago, Nevel and McGill said.
“Unkel” Joe, however, ended up remarrying later on in life to Lillian Hunter, a very nice person as Nevel mentioned. She had recently passed away within the last few years.
Despite the name of the business being Unkel Joe after Anderson himself, there was another partner involved with it. “Unkel” Bob Baker worked alongside “Unkel” Joe in enacting the business. After about two years of the original Lock Haven store, “Unkel” Bob branched out and started a sister store in Altoona, keeping the Unkel Joe’s name, explained Nevel.
“That store is thriving today — it is a huge store. They had an old place like this then they were offered some money and moved into a brand new facility. It’s beautiful,” he added.
Today both branches are head managed by Bob’s grandson. Nevel said that he has brought a lot of great ideas to the business, both garnering new merchandise as well as modernizing it with new cash registers and computers.
However, with new modernization and merchandising changes, Nevel assures that today’s store is just as it was 65 years ago. With about 10 current employees, he said that everyone is nice and welcoming to all customers.
Today the store’s president is Jennifer Babcock, the granddaughter of “Unkel” Joe. She resides in Florida with her husband, Steve Babcock. Babcock runs the stock portion of the store. McGill said that every employee and a good portion of locals have purchased Unkel Joe’s Woodshed stock between the two stores.
“Unkel Joe’s has corporation stock. Many of the employees, both current and previous, have stock, as well as locals,” said Nevel. “We have had to change with the times but we try to get the unusual stuff, so that everybody else does not have. We hear that a lot from customers.”
Unkel Joe’s Woodshed is constantly growing with the help of the store’s customers that come in and out daily matched with the friendliest of atmospheres.
Having been voted the best gift shop in the area by The Express time and time again, there will be no stopping the wholesome and cozy gem that “Unkel” Joe Anderson started 65 years ago.