Penn’s Store, located in Gravel Switch KY., is the oldest country store in the United States. This historic landmark has remained in the same family, for more than 150 years. Although the store has added electricity and a new outhouse, little else has changed over the years. (The building still has the original roof and siding.)
Remarkably, Penn’s Store made the headlines when they built their new outhouse, in 1992. It was the first bathroom facility, of ANY kind, at the store… inside or out.
This ‘ground breaking’ event is celebrated yearly, with an Outhouse Blowout. Plan to attend, the first weekend after Labor Day. Activities include: outhouse races, a car/truck/motorcycle show, a bluegrass music festival and vendor booths offering a variety of merchandise.
(Outhouse racers are a serious breed…. Well, at least some of them. These die-hard racers go so far as obtaining corporate sponsorship to pay for building materials, travel expenses, etc.)
The Penn’s Store Outhouse Blowout is a free event. But keep in mind, there is a $5 parking fee that is used to help cover expenses.
In early years, there were several other buildings, located on the property, besides the actual store. There was a spirits shop, chicken coop, storage building and Penn family residence. Today, only the store and outhouse remain.
Inside the store not a whole lot has changed. It’s not a tourist trap or a museum. Yes, the counters and glass showcases are much the same as they were in the 1900’s, but Penn’s sells things like groceries and dry goods, to the folks in Gravel Switch.
The store carries hand-made craft items, t-shirts, hats and other specialty items, as well. (How about a Penn’s Store cookbook or a nifty herbal moth repellant bag?)
The ceiling is still riddled with large spike nails, which once held salt cured ham and huge rolls of bologna. Now, those same nails hold herbs, form the Penn’s garden. Good, old fashioned, bologna sandwiches are still a big hit. Tourists (and locals) gobble them up, by the hundreds… maybe even thousands.
In the mood for a little music? Local musicians often gather, on the porch or around the woodstove, for an impromptu performance. You never know just who might show up with a guitar or fiddle, in hand.
Penn’s Store summer hours (April through November):
Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday 11am – 5pm Sunday 1pm – 4pm
Penn’s Store winter hours (December through March):
Friday & Saturday 11am – 4pm Sunday 1pm – 4pm
Hours are subject to change. If you are traveling a long distance to visit Penn’s store, it is best to call ahead to verify hours. You can reach Penn’s Store by calling (859) 332-7706.