What do a gutter installer, a home goods store, a laser tag arena and a pumpkin festival all have in common?
They can all be found at “The World’s Largest General Store” – Country Junction, which is located just outside of Lehighton in Towamensing Township.
Described on Google as “a lightly populated rural township in eastern Carbon County,” Towamensing isn’t exactly a hotbed of fun and excitement.
But thanks to Jan Everett and her husband Jim, there’s always something to do in the area, because their business is more than a really big general store. It’s an entertainment destination. The store brags it’s somewhere “where you can find everything under the sun.”
Its inventory has included some fairly unusual kitschy pieces, such as nearly life-sized statues of old-time celebrities and novelty tin signs. Recently, the store even advertised a couple of pygmy goats for sale.
It didn’t come easy for the Everetts, though. They started out as regular home service contractors looking to add a little fun and family to their business. One good idea after another helped to grow Country Junction into a destination for service, shopping and fun. They rebuilt after a devastating fire that might have caused others to give up and walk away.
As one of the store’s founders, Jan Everett said she is very proud of what her family has accomplished, bringing needed items and family fun to the region. And while she credits her husband as being the “idea” man, as the one in charge of advertising it’s Jan Everett who gets the word out that there’s so much to do in tiny little Towamensing.
Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Country Junction been around?
Jan Everett: We’ve been around since the early 1980s – 1983 or so. We started as “Service Team” doing home installation work. We did a lot of different things in homes like gutters, insulation, roofing.
LVB: How did the Country Junction “General Store” come about?
Everett: We started holding the Great Pocono Pumpkin festival which runs for about a month each year. We thought people would enjoy coming to a pumpkin festival more at a general store than at a Service Team, so we started making changes.
For as long as we’ve been married we’ve been running up to New England every year and we fell in love with the ambiance of it. We came back with what we thought was a taste of New England. We changed the name to “Country Junction” [and added home décor, lawn and furniture and other items] and instantly it became a hit.
LVB: Your tagline is “the World’s Largest General Store,” but it’s much more than that. There’s festivals, laser tag, an escape room, a pet store. Describe the Country Junction experience.
Everett: We’re a destination. We cater to families and children. We have [the shopping] along a yellow brick road theme. We have events. Our petting zoo is always big hit with families.
LVB: A little over a decade ago, the original store was destroyed by fire. How did you cope with the rebuilding process?
Everett: That was 2006. It was devastating. The whole store was destroyed. We lost all our taxidermy, including a rare bear that was half black bear half grizzly. We lost about $5 million dollars in product.
But my husband, the very next day he was out telling people what they had to do. We bought a huge tent from the government and we erected it and did business out of that all the time we were getting permits and everything so we could rebuild. It took about four years.
LVB: You’ve been rebuilt for about eight years now, but you’re still growing. You have a 50,000-square-foot expansion in the works right now. What’s planned?
Everett: We had the Ashley furniture store on the second floor [of the old store.] The furniture is coming back. We had a theater where people could just sit and watch movies by the restaurant. People really enjoyed that and we’re going to do that again. We’re hoping to put in a small stage. Dance companies can come in and perform.
We’re expanding our yellow brick road [shopping area] and there’s going to be an activity area for kids, where each week they can come in and do that week’s activity.
One of our most popular attractions is our pet store and that’s expanding. We’re going to have a do-it-yourself dog washing station and a grooming area.
LVB: What is your favorite attraction at Country Junction?
Everett: The pet store and the petting zoo. People can come in and pet alpacas. We really put ourselves on the map with that.
LVB: What would you like your legacy to be?
Everett: We have a lot of people who first came in here as children who now work here. We want to be that for families.
- Position: Co-founder/co-owner
- Company: The Service Team dba Country Junction
- Hometown: Palmer Township
- Family: Husband and co-owner, Jim, and three daughters, all of whom work at Country Junction
- When you brag about the Lehighton Area and the Lehigh Valley to people from out of state, you say: We have a beautiful state, especially in this area. We have the trees in the fall and the greenery and the meadows.
- Guilty pleasure: I love to go out to eat. I love restaurants and I love food.
- Dream vacation: A cruise, maybe around Italy.
- When you were a child, you wanted to be: An artist.
- Something your staff doesn’t know about you: Why would I tell you?
- Biggest inspiration: My husband. He inspires everyone. He makes everybody nuts, but he inspires them. He has all of the ideas. He’s tireless.
- What makes a great day: I get to come into work. When you get to our age when you get up in the morning it’s a good day.