Nelson’s Old Riverton Store, Riverton, Kansas, USA
Following service duty in World War I, Mr. Leo Williams and his wife, Lora, opened a small diner and garage on the eastern edge of Riverton, Kansas. Mr. Williams worked at the Empire District Electric Plant across the street while his wife served lunches and sold groceries. After a tornado destroyed the building in 1923, Mr. Williams built the current one-story vernacular building on an adjacent lot. The new Williams’ Store opened in 1925 with a small apartment in the west half for the Williams family.
Like most businesses in the area, the Williams’ Store catered primarily to local customers but also played an important role for travelers on Route 66. Business prospered after it was featured as an official stop on a Route 66 map series in the 1930s and 40s. Travelers would stop to enjoy a cold slice of watermelon, have a famous barbecue sandwich, use the facilities, or get directions. Patrons also bought shoes and clothes, as well as food staples such as ice, milk, eggs, bread, fresh meat, canned goods, and penny candy. Stores like this filled an important niche for travelers unable to afford café and restaurant prices.
Mr. Williams also built a regulation croquet court in the open lot east of the store. Constructed to standard specifications and with low walls surrounding the playing field, the court was lit for night games. It was a focal point of entertainment in Riverton, drawing crowds for tournament play. When the store’s parking needs increased, however, the Williams removed the court for additional parking.
The Williams family sold the store in 1973 to Joe and Isabell Eisler, whose nephew, Scott Nelson, now runs the business as a market, deli, general store, and Route 66 souvenir shop. The one-story red brick building has changed little over its 80 years of operation, still retaining the glass-enclosed porch, the wooden shelves, the rear deli counter, and the interior pressed-tin ceiling. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and received a National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program Cost-Share Grant award in 2005 for repairs to the roof and electrical system upgrades.
The Williams’ Store, now the Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store, is located at 7109 SE Highway 66 in Riverton, KS. The store is open for business Monday-Saturday 9:00am to 3:30pm. For further information, please contact the store at 620-848-333