RANDSBURG, Calif. (KGET) — Squished into the middle of a row of old buildings and businesses in a mining ghost town in the Mojave Desert is an old fashioned general store carrying groceries, dry goods and equipped with a historic soda fountain.
It used to be a pharmacy–Jone’s Drug Company–in the early 1900s, back when your soda came with a dose of cocaine or pepcid (Coca-Cola or Pepsi), and more than 4,000 miners populated the area.
“Back in the day, you had to be a pharmacist to have a soda fountain because back in the 1900s all the sodas had drugs in them,” said Brad Myers, current owner of the shop.
Now, only about 48 people live in the town and the 118-year-old Randsburg General Store is on the brink of closing its doors forever.
In 2016, Myers, originally from Los Angeles, somehow found himself in possession of the historic shop.
“We rode dirt bikes out here for the last 25 to 30 years,” Myers told 17 News.
Myers said he originally opened up a T-shirt store to cater to the dirt biking community in the area until the previous owner started pestering him about taking over the General Store too.
“She [the previous owner] bothered me for two years to take over,” Myers said.
Then, one weekend while his wife was out of town, Myers said he took the leap.
“I took her [Myers’s wife] to a restaurant with a whole lot of witnesses and told her she was the proud owner of a general store,” Myers said. “I wanted someone to witness the killing.”
Myers said the store still operates as a soda fountain, pouring out the soda syrup into a cup, adding the carbonated water, stirring and adding ice. He said they also sell ice cream, shakes and malts; everything the original store sold.
“All this stuff has been being made since before the Titanic sank,” Myers said.
Myers said they added a small restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch.
Since the pandemic hit, Myers said he’s been at the store almost full time. He lives in a small apartment at the back of the store and said he goes home to L.A. about every four or five months. Myers added that many of his customers also came out and lived in mobile homes in the desert during that period too. He said usually his busy season starts around the Old West Day festival on Sept. 17 where people will come from all over the state.
But the pandemic is also when, like many other small businesses, the General Store’s livelihood was put at risk.
“We [Myers and the current owner of the building] had an agreement back six years ago to buy the building at some point and after Covid, she decided she didn’t want to carry the loan anymore,” Myers said. He added that they originally agreed to a sale price of $200,000 but the owner raised it to $450,000.
“Then she raised my rent also which I can’t afford,” Myers said.
If they aren’t able to buy it back, Myers said, “It would sit here like the White House,” an old fashioned saloon across the street from the General Store which has been closed for three years, and fall to ruin.
Now, Myers said he is on a quest to buy the store and save this part of Kern County history.
“We’re just a little ghost town in the middle of the Mojave Desert only open about 15 hours a week,” Myers said. “We can’t afford to stay open.”
Myers said customers started a GoFundMe to help raise money for Myers to buy the building. So far they have raised over $11,000. Donate to the fund to buy the Randsburg General Store here.