SAYS THE OWNER OF FARLEY MERCANTILE
Greg Trial was not exactly surprised when he discovered horse and buggy components, including horseshoes, embedded in the foundation in his Farley, Mo. building. After all, the corner store originally dated to 1872, but some portions were re-built in 1906 after a fire.
“Farley Mercantile helps keep alive history in that it occupies a building used originally also as a mercantile,” said Lisa Wittmeyer, local historian and curator of the Platte County Ben Ferrel Museum in Platte City.
Trial, the store’s owner, has vowed never to part with historical treasures unearthed in the building, constructed of wood and lathe and plaster, an early precursor to dry wall. A local historian told Trial the horse and buggy items likely came from a blacksmith shop that was located behind the mercantile and were used as reinforcement for the building’s foundation. Other treasures include some of the store’s original signage, which he proudly displays in the store. An old glass-front cooler remains from the days when a previous owner made and sold sandwiches from behind the counter, he said.
While Trial and his girlfriend have operated a pop-up Christmas shop there during the past few years, they decided to forgo the retail store this year and currently concentrate on selling products, some of which used to sell in the store, through an online eBay site.
While he continues to renovate the top floor, most of the bottom floor was completed in 2020, he said. Improvements include new paint, drywall, plaster, and the installation of a door from the showroom to go upstairs from interior. He acquired liquor licenses from local government, but that venture proved unsuccessful because customers could buy it cheaper at big box stores.
“The day of the Mom and Pop (store) is limited,” he said.
While the store’s future is uncertain, it could become a spot for a fishing business. Vending machines located on the store’s front porch already provide 24-hour access to bait and hooks for those heading out to fish on the nearby river, located just a little more than a mile from the store. Trial said he’s also considering reworking the main floor to operate it as an auction house or museum and renting the top floor as an event center.
As publicity for the mercantile, Trial hired Joel Nichols Communications, a local television crew, to produce a five-part series of You-Tube videos detailing the history of the store and its surrounding properties. The videos include information about the shooting of Platte County’s Sheriff John H. Dillingham, who was killed in a shootout near the mercantile more than a century ago.
Dillingham, the first county law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty, was shot by Sterling Price, who was suspected of murder in the deaths of James and Mary Wallace. During the shootout, the sheriff’s son, Henry Dillingham, returned fire and killed the suspect. A placard, placed by the Platte County Historical Society, details the shootings. Another video details a bank robbery, only one of several which also occurred near the mercantile.
Trial, a 55-year-old self-described “inventor,” has his “hands in way too much,” he said, including his latest venture, harvesting invasive Asian carp from the nearby Missouri River, and turning them into sustainable products, such as fertilizer, compost, and fishing bait.
“I’m selling a promise they’ll catch fish,” he said of the carp to be used as bait.
He’s even experimenting with creating fish patties he can perhaps sell to nearby prisons as food for inmates. He has already secured one patent and is awaiting news of others and is seeking trademarks.
The carp project could literally spell a lifesaver for other species of fish, which are crowded out by carp as they’ve taken over the river, said Trial, who was raised in Westwood, Kan., now lives in Kansas City.
He acquired his business sense from his father, a grocer, who taught him best business practices as a young child. He said his grandfather taught him to fish—another passion he has pursued throughout his life.
When he was still very young, Trial said he discovered that ideas for entrepreneurial ventures began dominating his thoughts. Trial is so invested in his ideas that he regularly meets with other Kansas City area inventors to share ideas and offer advice. “My whole life has been this way,” Trial said of his search for meaning. “I want to be able to do something in the world that matters,” he said. “It’s never been about the money.”
Trial attracted a few local customers during the store’s retail days. A very old woman came into the store looking for red crème soda, purchased for her for five cents as a child. That’s when Trial added the drink to his inventory. But most walk-ins were from the nearby highway, he said. At first, Farley residents seemed supportive of his ventures, but as time went on, they became less likely to purchase items in the store, he said. The pandemic dealt a devastating blow to his store’s finances and, while he qualified for federal COVID relief money, he said Platte County only gave him a small portion of the money he was designated to receive.
The old mercantile has been a mixed bag since Trial happened across the building in 2019 while taking a detour from his usual daily commute, from his job as a mechanical and electrical machinist.
He said, “From the day I bought the building, it’s been the weirdest blessing and the strangest curse.”