The register is once again ringing as the Knights Ferry General Store has reopened for business. Store owner and shop tender Andrew Basmajian, along with wife Bethany, could not be more pleased.
The couple officially acquired the Knights Ferry General Store, Saloon and Grill from longtime owner Rick Maisel in mid-April. Just shy of a year and a half since serving a customer, the store reopened its door over the Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to do something like this,” Andrew said of owning the store.
As an Oakdale native, the shop owner shared he has many fond memories of the store as well as the town of Knights Ferry.
Acquiring the oldest operating General Store in California became a true family affair. Andrew and Bethany own the store, saloon and grill in a partnership with his sister Amy Ehrlich and his mother Pam Basmajian.
“It’s all family here, Rick is a good friend of mine,” he said of retired owner Rick Maisel. “We had twins in January, I think I received the call from Rick the day after while we were still at the hospital, saying let’s do this, let’s make it happen.”
“We really, really treasure what this place means to the community,” Bethany said of the store, first founded in 1852. “Everything that Rick and Glenda did. We’re really honored that Rick chose us. He had a lot of people come to him, but he chose us.”
Maisel had closed the store after the passing of his wife and, when the time was right, the deal was struck.
As the new owners slowly restock the shelves and make plans to get the Saloon and Grill going again, they are cognizant of their customers, as well as their unique opportunity. On any given day they can see a dozen locals, stopping in for high quality milk from Low and Slow, a cyclist in search of an energy bar or a rafter looking for a sandwich. Whatever the case, they are ready to service the customer needs and if they don’t have it, they’ll look for it.
“We’re really trying to cater to the locals,” Andrew said.
“Especially with the produce,” Bethany added, noting her passion for fresh picked produce and relations being built with local growers to bring the community the best product at the best price.
“This produce is better priced than what you would find in town,” Andrew stated, as his wife stocked the shelf with produced picked that morning from an area grower.
“Good, healthy, quality stuff is really important to us,” he said. “We’ve picked out everything we want to carry and we still have room to grow. I’d like to see our shelves full, but we don’t want to rush anything. We want to make sure what we have is the right thing.”
Adjacent to the general store is the Saloon and Grill, which is currently open on weekends and will expand to a six day a week schedule come July 4th weekend.
“Amy’s still testing the kitchen and getting comfortable,” Andrew said of his sister, making note that hamburgers were offered at the saloon this past weekend to an overwhelming response by patrons.
“We actually had people calling up and asking if we would have those burgers again today,” he said of the weekend crowd.
Live music has also returned to the Saloon and will be heard from the newly, still under construction, stage with a view of Main Street.
“It’s important to us to keep what was,” Andrew said of the business, “but make it our own. To have people so appreciative of us reopening … I think about it every day, about how this would have changed had we not taken it over.”
“We’re really honored and humbled because we get to bring it back to life,” Bethany added. “We’re so grateful to the community for all the support and love, hearing all the stories.”
As for those just passing through or the history enthusiast, the couple is equally grateful. Gifted with the ability of small talk and with a baby in each arm, Andrew and Bethany are more than happy to share a story or two with the visitor just looking to pass some time.
Knights Ferry General Store, Saloon and Grill is located at 17701 Main Street, Knights Ferry. Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. For additional information call 881-3340 or find them on Facebook.