With J.A. Brahm at the helm in 1872, his building allegedly built with the earnings of one day's interest first served as a home to a trio collectively called the Broadgauge Store. With clothing, dry-goods and groceries under one roof it was hailed a mega-store of the era.
As fortunes shifted, so did the ownership, being sold to H. H. Schirding in 1890. Ran by a Mr. Thompson & Mr. Rosendahl, the physical appearance of the store didn't change much until two Brothers took over and began to extensively remodel. Possibility the shortest tenants, the Kenyons are credited with a taste for the ornate, putting in a grand staircase and a balcony that stretched the length of the interior. Around this time the entrance got a facelift as well, with two large plate glass windows. Though stillowned by Mr. Schirdling, 1917 brought another set of tenants. Among the new store's original employees was a young Rosy Robbins, who along with his son Roy would buy the business in 1939, lending to it the name that stands today.
Only the third owners, the Robbins finally took possession on September 1st, 1950. Each year around December the large storefront windows would be transformed into elaborate displays with presents, fireplace scenes and later an animated Santa. In 1977 the main store was extended, turning the section previously home to a grocery store, a tavern and dentist office, into the new footwear department. More than a place to buy goods, the Robins building was interwoven in the tapestry of the town. After 59 years of loyal service, the family decided to close the doors on the iconic shop December 24th, 1998. Notknowing what was to come, a local antiques dealer, Betty Winchester, was present at the final auction to claim her piece of history. No longer an
active business, in 1999 Betty went to Mrs. Robbins and got permission to continue the tradition and decorate the store's windows for Christmas. The year following, she was back for another joyous round of holiday trim. When Betty went to ask in 2001, she was met by Maida's son Randy, who hinted "You should buy the building"
With humble beginnings in the "old cheese factory" on 3rd street, Bill & Betty Winchester had started what would become their passion in 1989. , They moved their small antique shop in 1995 to a two story Victorian house across from the bank on Route 97, originally built by a family who'd run a small store in town. Taking the name "Estep" from a founding father of Petersburg and mercantile in honor of the Levering family who'd owned the house, Estep & Associates Mercantile was born that year. Never more than a fleeting fantasy before, Randy's offer of the building in 2001 sent a thrill through Betty when she heard it. By January of the New Year papers had been drawn up and by March of 2002 life was being breathed into the former dry-goods store once again. Still known as the Robbins building, the "shoe room" continues to carry its name and Santa takes his place on the square every winter.
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