Buzby’s General Store, a 150-year-old slice of Americana in the heart of the Pine Barrens, is looking for a new owner. Asking price: $575,000.
The little Chatsworth store has long been the heart and soul of the Pinelands, a local gathering spot that shaped John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens, a classic 1968 book often credited as the catalyst to preserving 1.1 million acres of New Jersey woodlands.
“I had the idea for the book, but that was altered by the place,” McPhee tells New Jersey Monthly. “Buzby’s changed the structure and the reality of the story.”
Marilyn Schmidt, Buzby’s owner since 1998, operates a collectibles and book business at Buzby’s, which she saved from decay after the previous owner stopped paying taxes. A recent cancer survivor, Schmidt, who turns 83 this month, wants to retire to a nearby senior community.
“I thoroughly enjoy what I do,” says Schmidt, “but I have two replacement knees and a foot that is screwed together. I keep falling down; all the neighbors have picked me up. And the store demands attention.”
The building, which is listed on the state and federal registries of historic places, was constructed in 1865 at the intersections of Routes 532 and 563, in the center of Chatsworth, a village of maybe 300 people. The Buzby family owned the building and ran a general store there for its first 102 years.
McPhee began researching The Pine Barrens by exploring the area and then drawing borders on a map. In the center was Chatsworth. At the epicenter of Chatsworth stood Buzby’s. McPhee spent months meeting and greeting locals from a now long-gone seat on a wood plank placed over a radiator. “There was a lot of gossip there,” he says.
McPhee hopes Schmidt finds a buyer. Without Buzby’s, he says, there will be a hole in the heart of the Pines. So far, the store has been on the market more than six months without viable offers. “I would only close if I was not able to run it,” says Schmidt, sighing. “But I’m getting tired.”