Lyman returns as manager under new owner
Two years after its closure, the Carlton General Store is on track to reopen later this fall – under new ownership, but with a familiar face behind the counter.
New owner Scott Edson is working with the previous owner, Jeff Lyman, to make necessary remodels and improvements to the Carlton icon.
Lyman had operated the lower valley’s cultural nexus for about six years before he closed the store just after the Fourth of July in 2018.
At the time, Lyman said the demands of operating the store had taken a toll. “It’s been a struggle to make a living at this,” he said in 2018. “I’m tired and I want to go hang out with my kid,” Lyman said, referring to his daughter, Mina. Lyman stayed in the valley and kept ownership of the building.
“It’ll open back up with the right people,” he said at the time.
That turns out to be Edson, who grew up in the Methow Valley and has family ties to the place.
“He [Edson] wants the store to be open, he knows what it means to the town,” said Lyman. As part of the deal, Edson requested that Lyman continue to manage the operations of the store.
Before the store can open, the gas pumps need to be upgraded to be chip compliant, and the store needs indoor bathrooms and a deli space.
While the store has been closed, work continued on the building. Improvements were made to the foundation and roof, and a septic system was installed. With the new septic system in place, Lyman and Edson can build out the deli and bathrooms.
Lyman promises that the bathrooms are going to be something special. “People are going to want to come to Carlton just to see these bathrooms,” he said.
The deli will have indoor seating and televisions, continuing to be the gathering place that the Carlton General Store has been known for in the past.
Lyman will expand his Carlton Guide Service and Fly Shop, with a wide selection of top-notch tackle and gear. The store will offer Carlton clothing and a selection of dry goods, groceries and toys. Customers can fill up growlers with beer and their gas tanks with non-ethanol gas.
For his part, Lyman is happy to be back. “Two years ago, I didn’t have the money and I was stretched thin,” he said. The solution works for him and the community, Lyman said. Edson will run the business side, while Lyman will provide the same jovial customer service.
The Carlton General Store has always been more than a country mercantile. When the Carlton Complex Fire exploded in 2014, the store became the central staging area.
Fire trucks lined the surrounding streets and Lyman scrambled to get generators set up to provide cold drinks and food to the firefighters and keep the fuel pumps working.
Some evacuees dropped off their belongings at the store for safekeeping. Lyman put up a bulletin board where people could share information about the status and locations of loved ones.
“I was open for a week straight. I slept here.” Lyman recalled in 2018. “People would come in confused, thirsty. Some would sleep here with me. This was a place where people could sit and laugh or sit and cry together. I’ve seen some really cool stuff – people helping one another – and some of the saddest stuff I’ll probably ever see in my life. I’ve watched my friends’ houses burn.”
Lyman purchased the store, which had been shuttered when the previous owner left the valley, in late 2011 and opened it in April 2012. He often worked 80-hour weeks, especially in the early days when he didn’t have assistance.
The business took a hit when tourism dropped off after the Carlton Complex Fire. In the following years, the store was affected by nearby washouts and road closures, as well as more wildfires and bad air quality. Then the steelhead fishery was closed, another major blow to his revenues. “I put my head down, but enough is enough,” Lyman said in 2018.
The Carlton General Store had something for everyone, from kids’ toys to machetes; Spam alongside organic snacks and crackers; denture cream; WD40; bar and chain oil; and an assortment of drinks – from kombucha to Budweiser.
This article contains material from previous Methow Valley News stories.