Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Buzby's General Store
February 20, 2004

Click on picture to see larger image...

If one travels down Route 70, turning onto New Road, and following it through the many names all the way to its end, one may find the small town of Chatsworth, known as the “Capital of the Pines”. One block to the right, at the corner of Main Street (Route 563) and First Avenue lies the famous Buzby’s General Store of Chatsworth, which might as well be known as “The Capital Building of the Pines.”

The Chatsworth General Store was built way back in 1865 by Neil Wade. However, it really came into its own when it was purchased by Willis Jefferson and Myrtle Buzby in 1895, which owned another general store in Chatsworth and were looking to expand. They set up shop downstairs, and lived above the store. Willis Buzby, known as “the King of the Pineys”, was a friendly man, who according to Father Beck, went “laughing his way through life and forgetting the bills of those who owed him the most”. Beck also relates how Willis would have someone take his place at the counter so the two could go explore the sites of Union Forge, the Princess House, or Speedwell Furnace. Indeed, Willis Buzby once even closed up shop to come unstuck Father Beck’s car from a cranberry causeway. Under the Buzbys, not only prospered, but became a social center for the town. The store was renovated in the 1920s, when the large front windows and angled door cut into the corner of the building were installed. According to John McPhee, the purpose of this design was for the door to be the most prominent feature, and thereby to attract people from both intersecting streets. This seems a bit odd, as it was the only store for miles and miles in any direction. The store even served for a short time as a post office. It was also here, in the Buzby’s garage, that the body of Captain Emilio Carranza was lain out after being taken from the woods in 1928. After a run of over forty years, the rule of Willis Buzby came to an end upon his death in 1937.

At this time, the store passed into the capable hands of the Buzby’s son, Willis Jonathan Buzby, known to all as “Jack”. Jack had married Katie Ritzendollar (who had lived in the house next door to the store) and together they ran the store. Beck notes that this new Buzby, who also inherited the title “King of the Pineys”, was “presiding in a far more orderly emporium” and “a hub of unequaled friendliness and the best stories in the vicinity”. The radiator was covered with an oak plank where people would wander in and sit a spell, drinking coffee and swapping stories or news. Jack would often address not any particular person, but the assembled crowd. Kerosene was sold from a red pump near the door. Three Esso gasoline pumps stood out front of the store from 1921 onward. In addition, the store sold cold cuts, canned foods, soft drinks, crackers, cookies, cereals, sardines, sewing materials, clothing, hunting supplies (such as shotgun shells), animal feed (grain and hay), hardware supplies, building supplies, friction tape, gasket cement, sweet snuff, well restorers, and newspapers, among other things. Under a glass counter stood small square dishes filled with all types of candy. According to Katy De Petris, a storekeeper later on, everything was sold at Buzbys “from Model-T parts to horehound drops”. Jack and Katie Buzby operated the store until 1967, at which time they sold it to a local Chatsworth couple and retired to their home across the street.

The Chatsworth General store continued to operate under a series of owners for many years. However, in 1992, the store closed its doors, and all was sold off save the candy counter and a handful of tables and chairs. The store stood closed and vacant for several years. In 1996, Barnegat Light Press and Marilyn Schmidt came the rescue, by purchasing the tax lien and foreclosing on the many owners. A team under Chatsworth native Albert Morison completely restored and renovated the store (including the candy counter), finishing in 1999. It today houses The Cheshire Cat, a “Pinelands Resource Center” that sells local, Pinelands themed art work, crafts, antiques, as well as more Pinelands books than anywhere else (many that cannot be found anywhere else), several of them written by Marilyn Schmidt herself.

Marilyn Schmidt workin' hard on her next book

February 20 was my third trip to Buzbys, the first having been made with Red ‘round the previous October, the second having been made solo while the store was closed. On that first trip, showing that intelligence for which I am widely known, I didn’t take any pictures. I didn’t think to take any of the exterior the second time around either. Go me.

Pumpkin, King of the Pineys?

Actually, I nearly forgot to take pictures again. Fortunately, Pumpkin, a very large, very friendly orange cat that has run of the store, reminded me to take some pictures. I greatly suspect that Pumpkin is the latest inheritor of the title “King of the Pineys”, and apparently he has been in just about every newspaper south of Trenton. Even with the help of this noble feline, I completely forgot to take a picture of the candy counter, and ended up with one picture of the interior. Go me again.

Anyway, the inside is quite large. The front room is largely dedicated to displays of miniature prints of paintings, the large collection of Pine Barrens and food books for sale, and some crafts and antiques. On the wall hand several old Buzbys signs, including one advertising land for sale. A large moose sits guard over the place, just in front of the bulletin board and the large map of the Pine Barrens that Marilyn herself produced many years ago when she was unable to find a map of the Pine Barrens.

The back room of the store is dedicated more to the craftwork and paintings that the store is known for. It also contains a large fireplace, uncovered during restoration, and the old candy counter, which now houses glass, china, and ships models. There are perhaps a dozens cat signs hanging on display, with such great lines as “Don’t let the cat out, no matter how much he tells you to”, or something along those lines. It’s funny if you are a cat person, really. On the wall hangs a large picture of the Buzbys having a bicycle delivered that they won in some “proof of purchase” collecting contest. I wonder how long it took the man from the company to find Chatsworth. I hope he didn’t ride the bike all the way there.

On both trips inside the store, I (or in the case of the first trip, myself and Red), spent quite some time talking to Marilyn Schmidt. As well as being an excellent author and an excellent store owner, she is also a very friendly person, who is very happy to share information with anyone who passes her way, or just to swap stories. She is more than happy to have anyone interested in the pines stop by. Just tell your family first so that they aren’t worrying about you.

Also, say hello to Pumpkin. He likes tarter control cat treats, but not regular treat or wet food. He doesn't like having to bend his head all the way to the ground to get them either. It’s good to be the King.

The Cheshire Cat at Buzby’s Chatsworth General Store is located at First Street and Route 563 in Chatsworth, NJ. During the winter, the store is open Thursday – Sunday, 9 am until 2 pm.


Beck, Henry Charlton. The Roads of Home. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1956.

Historic “Buzby’s” Chatsworth General Store. Pamplet.

McPhee, John. The Pine Barrens. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1968.

McPhee, John. “The People of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.” National Geographic January 1974: 52-77.

Schmidt, R. Marilyn. A Self-Guided Tour of Chatsworth & Vicinity. Pine Barrens Press, 2001.

More information?:

The Cheshire Cat Webpage Interview with Marilyn Schmidt