POCOPSON — The old bromide suggests “everything old is new again.”
And while that might seem unlikely in this world of smartphones, social media and the like, the true social hub of the greater Unionville area has been a bedrock of the community since 1849: Brandywine Ace, Pet & Farm.
Saturday marks the Grand Re-Opening of the store, marked by live music, food, prize give aways, special one-day sales and drawings, 9 a.m. for 4 p.m. — but the story of how the new and improved store came to be stretches across more than century of local history and across the southern part of Chester County.
When the old farm store opened up more than a decade before the Civil War in what was the burgeoning village of Lenape, complete with train station — and for a while even trolley service to West Chester or Kennett — and post office, it became the hub of social life in the region. Through various owners, iterations and even buildings, the store has long been the place where it seems you run into everyone.
Just a couple of miles away, the Unionville Feed & Pet Store was the same sort of local hub — the kind of place where you could get a lot of “likes” without clicking a mouse.
But neither store was thriving — and it took vision to take the best of both and build a new operation likely to become as big a staple in the community in the 21st century as the original store was in the 19th century, which is what Saturday’s Grand Re-Opening is celebrating.
And even the current owners, the Drennen Family, Larry Sr., Larry Jr. and Chris Drennen, have family roots that extend back to the 19th century of local retailing. Although a Drennen has been part of the management team of the Oxford Feed & Lumber store for just less than a century, the family’s retailing roots go even further back, dating to the old Fairmount General Store in Lancaster in the 1800s.
And the Drennen’s know a bit about reinventing — having successfully reworked Oxford Feed & Lumber, modernizing the store without losing the old-time charm of the original business. They were also able to show off their merchandising prowess with the opening of Pets & Friends, a retail pets store in Jennersville.
After buying Hess Feeds in the village of Unionville in 2005 and converting it to Unionville Feed & Pet, the business grew rapidly — and quickly outgrew a cramped space. After a number of years of looking for a new location in Unionville, no real option emerged.
Then the current Ace franchisee in Pocopson was looking to move on. And, the building’s owner — another party — were looking to sell. The Drennens were able to buy both the franchise and the Pocopson Road property in 2012 and immediately started drawing up plans to enlarge and improve the store.
The product mix is new, with more farm, horse, pet and feed products — but because of an expansion of the retail area, all of the familiar Ace Hardware products, from Craftsman tools to Weber Grills to Stihl power equipment and even the highly rated Clark & Kensington paint line remains on sale.
What also hasn’t changed: the Drennens kept on the entire staff from both stores, so the smiling faces and helpful folks in both locations that everyone has come to know and appreciate are still there.
In celebration of the new and the old, Brandywine Ace, Pet & Farm is throwing quite the party Saturday.
In addition to a wide variety of sales and special one-discounts, shoppers can stop by to get a Bar-B-Que lunch of Holiday House pulled pork, Herr’s chips and soda (for a donation to Pet rescue fund). For the kids there’s a moon bounce, Petting Zoo and face painting and more.
For the grown ups, there are dog obedience sessions, a demonstration by the Longwood Fire Company, hourly Stihl demos, and live music from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There will be raffles for five baskets, either valued at $300, plus two grand prizes, a 40-inch Samsung SMART LCD TV and Weber E-310 gas grill with Weber Island Cabinetry.