|Tiny Towns and Old Rivers (from Window on the Chesapeake)|
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|This story is an excerpt from Window on the Chesapeake by Wendy Mitman Clarke. To order this book, visit the Mariner's Museum.|
The gray clapboard store that stands today was built in the mid-1800s. From the late 1800s until 1990, it served as the town’s post office. In fact, it gave the town its name—a simple anagram of Etta Lewis, who, with her husband Charlie, owned the store when the post office was established. Or so the story goes. In those days general stores dotted the waterfront all over the Bay, many of them linked to the steamboat lines that traversed the Chesapeake and its tributaries transporting everything from tomatoes and watermelons to livestock and people. It was far easier to travel by water in many places—the Northern Neck among them—because the water was so much more dependable than the roads, if there were roads. Waterways were highways, and general stores were the 7-Elevens of the time. Only a few remain, though, Lewisetta one of them. “That’s the story of Lewisetta,” says [Helen] Scerbo, sighing. “I love Lewisetta.”
Over the double front door is LEWISETTA GENERAL STORE written in white cursive letters. A single, naked light bulb dangles over the porch, and the wooden screen doors slam in that particular way that makes you think of hot, buggy summer nights. Inside, the old pine floor is hidden beneath blue and white linoleum. A command center of sorts stands in the middle, holding the cash register, the kids’ bookbags, boxes of candy bars and arts and crafts projects to keep young fingers and minds occupied on rainy days, among them some oyster shells decorated in gold and silver paint.
As the late-day sun warms the porch, Mark Scerbo walks up from the marina with one hand wrapped around the tails of three whopping bluefish, a gift from a customer. The sun will set soon, over the river. Maybe some dolphins will come in to play. The kids will tussle on the grass. The Lewisetta General Store will shut its doors for the night and rest awhile, awaiting the sunrise, fresh coffee and another timeless day.