BURLINGTON JUNCTION, Mo. — Michael and Cortney Goff are planning their family’s future while investing in their community.
The Goff family is a large one, and its members have pulled together to not only keep open the town’s convenience store/market, but also bring something new to the community.
On Nov. 12, Michael and Cortney Goff purchased from William Skretta the Burlington Junction Grocery. Now called Goff HOME Grocery, the small market owners reopened on Nov. 13 and are shifting the business from strictly convenience store to more of a market or grocery store.
“I’ve got a big family and everybody’s willing to help out,” Michael said.
Knowing there was a historic wall behind the one standing at the back of the store thanks to his mother having grown up in the area, he and his family tore down the secondary wall and opened up the space.
“I could tell you about that wall better than he could,” said Connie Goff, Michael’s mother who also helps out with the business. “When I was a young kid, and I’m pretty old, this was a doctor’s office.”
She said a Dr. Byland and a Dr. Wimpe used to take daily turns seeing patients in the new two-bedroom apartment, while a Mr. Kokesh made medicines in the pharmacy. She said they even have some of the bottles he used.
On the east side of the building was the waiting room for patients, but she lit up recalling the soda fountain along the west wall.
“When we were kids we’d come in here after school and get a cherry Coke or a cherry phosphate,” she said. “They had magazines and comic books we could sit and read.”
Roger Goff laughed saying all he remembers from that time was going up the stairs that used to be there, and receiving a vaccination.
In the ’70s, Jay Flannery had a consignment auction that used to sell items for local people. She said that’s when they took out the staircase and he just used a podium during sales.
Unsure of when Skretta took over the business, Roger and Connie both agreed he probably ran the business for 10 to 15 years at 119 S. Main St.
It was Skretta who put up the secondary wall, thus shrinking the store space. Michael said he lived in the apartment behind the business, and the wall probably afforded a certain amount of privacy. Before Michael and Cortney purchased the store, the coolers were placed along the wall facing south.
He also explained Skretta sold the business because he got married in August and decided to leave the area to be closer to his wife in Nebraska.
“People have really enjoyed coming in to see what it used to look like,” Connie said.
Always thinking of new opportunities for the community, Michael purchased a 3,800-pound wood-fired stone pizza oven at auction.
Connie explained he and other family members have been trying out new recipes for pizza. In the purchase of the grocery, the Goff’s also acquired the adjoining building to the east.
“It’s in the pretty early stages,” Michael said but that he hopes in the future to offer a sit-down pizza restaurant for the community.
“Right now, we’re having pizza parties and we’re experimenting,” Connie said. “He said he wants to get it perfected.”
Michael described the pizza oven as holding heat for hours after it’s been fired. At its max temperature, the oven will cook a pizza in a maximum of 90 seconds, he said. The oven reaches temperatures around 785 degrees Fahrenheit. About 12 hours after reaching that max temperature, he said the oven had only dropped to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. So in true Goff ingenuity, Cortney made the most of the opportunity and baked some homemade cinnamon rolls, took them home to ice and then brought them back to the store to sell.
Connie and Roger explained that the idea is to place the oven at the rear doorway of the adjacent building, then build around it.
“They’ll sit it so you can watch it cook,” Connie said. In the meantime the pizza parties offer an opportunity to perfect the recipes. “Everybody’s been ‘YouTubing’ the Italian-style pizza.”
Michael’s mother also said the two entrepreneurs purchased a roller grill, to offer roller foods such as hot dogs and Tornados. Currently the store offers cheese and pepperoni, bacon, egg, cheese and salsa and cheesy pepper jack Tornados. Close to their hearts, the quarter-pound Bahama Mama hot dogs were chosen, because while living in Idaho for a while, Michael said he and Cortney really grew to love them.
Michael said he even purchased a deli meat slicer that they hope to use for deli sandwiches in the near future.
“There are a lot of farmers in the community and they can’t always sit down and have a lunch,” Michael said. “Those are all in the planning stages right now.”
Founded in 1879, Burlington Junction is named for a Burlington railroad junction near the original town site. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Burlington Junction has about 537 people, 228 households and 147 families residing in the city. So choosing what to stock in their store, has been a learning experience for the Goffs.
“We don’t know what everyone wants,” Connie said. His mother explained they want to offer a few basics, so if someone runs out of something while making dinner, they can run down to the shop and not have to make a trip to Maryville.
“We always have a table up so people can come in and sit down and talk,” Connie said. “I was born and raised here. This was my hangout space when I was a kid. Michael was born and raised here and I think that’s what we’re hearing. Our community needs this.”
She makes a list when someone asks for something. Stocking is an ongoing process for them. With people interested in different things, he’s always looking to find the best price, so he can help keep the prices as low as possible.
Just in the two months since opening, Michael said there has been an outpouring of support both online and in the town.
“It’s been really cool to see the community support from people who don’t really live here now, but have lived here, remember how it was,” Michael said.
He hopes eventually to put up some historic photos of the building and its former occupants.
When the U.S. government was shut down, the Goffs’ application to accept EBT or food stamps was put on hold. They’ve been waiting to hear when they can begin to accept it.
“In our community there are a lot of people on food stamps,” Michael said. “There are a lot of people who are kind of bound to this town. A lot of people do exclusively shop here and use food stamps to help them.”
He said they began the 45-day application process immediately, but the shutdown really held them up.
Now that the government is reopened, he hopes the application will move through quickly.
In the end it all comes back to family for Michael and Cortney. The two have five children of their own: Oren, 11; Chet, 6; Clara, 5; Emily, 2; and LillyAnn, 5 months.
“The Goff bunch is a big bunch,” Michael said. The family has held UNO games, jam sessions (Michael’s band is called Michael Goff & Broken Spoke) and other community get-togethers such as the pizza parties.
The apartment in the back has become kind of the hangout for Michael and Cortney’s children among others. They use it to watch movies and play while their parents work in the store.
Michael still works full time as a teacher at Clarinda Academy to help with family costs while the business gets on its feet.
“It’s not going to make him rich,” his father Roger said. But with one decision, the Goffs’ new venture might just help both his family and his community.
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The family intends to keep the Sabbath holy.