Piper’s Grocery: Homemade for the Holidays

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CHARITON, Iowa -- If it’s not the most famous corner in Chariton, it must be the most ironic.

Piper’s Grocery: where no one is calling for change.

“We’re a business that gets told frequently ‘We hope you never…go away,'" says owner, Jill Kerns.

But within the store that seems to have stopped the clock, there’s a room in the back that’s working to beat it.

“Christmas has just gone kind of crazy on us,” Kerns admits.

That’s partly because we’ve gone crazy for Piper’s.

“I’ve waited on the mother," recalls Jill's mother, Anne, "who said ‘my son called and said Mom you forgot to send my candy!’”

So, there are up to nine women right now working all day, every day.

“I can’t smell it anymore,” a part-time worker admits.

What a pity.

In copper kettles in use since the Truman administration, it’s made from scratch.

Caramel rolls, fudge and the turtles.

“Pinching them," says Jill, holding a fresh turtle, "that’s one of the first things you learn to do when you come to work at Piper’s.”

Pecans come from the same Georgia farm every year.

“When I call up they’ll say ‘Well hello Miss Jill! What can I help you with?’”

Just more pecans, please. The rest is up to these ladies. They’ll fill a thousand boxes.

“I enjoy working with my hands," says another worker.

That’s good, because aside from the occasional spoon, hands are the only tools you’ll find. Knowing hands -- wise ones -- they’ll do every part; from the initial order, through the assembly and then wrap not once, but twice, before boxing it up to ship.

“If you messed with that, you’d be in trouble!” Anne laughs.

Since taking over for Bob Piper in the 80s, Anne Kerns has stayed open by staying true.

“There’s a tremendous amount of tradition,” she says.

It’s there from the walls to the floor and extends to her daughter, now in charge.

“I’m very happy that Jill took the store;" Anne says, "that was a real pleasure for me.”

The phones are still rotary but the website is humming, so you can bet Piper’s will continue to make it.

“We get just a little bigger every year and a few more orders," Jill laughs, "and we think we just can’t possibly do this, but we do.”

And that’s good to know. On the favorite corner in Chariton, something is still working.

“And it’s darn good!” Anne shouts.

As good as ever.


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