WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (Morris County) – The historic Schooley’s Mountain General Store, New Jersey’s oldest, continuously operating country market, received a $15,000 Morris County Small Business Grant Program check Tuesday.
“It’s absolutely going to help. It’s going to help me get back to where I belong, get me back in the right direction and hopefully get the ball rolling again,” said Peter Aldrich, owner of the General Store since 2006.
Morris County Commissioner Deputy Director John Krickus presented the grant to Aldrich along with Washington Township Mayor Matt Murello during a visit and tour of the store, which was originally opened around 1803. Located in the heart of one of the township’s most historic areas, the store and the region has been visited by U.S. Presidents over the years, including Ulysses S. Grant, William Henry Harrison and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Old photographs of the General Store through the ages adorn the old building, which has had many names, but continued to operate as a market and deli, and continues to house one of the region’s oldest Post Offices. However, Aldrich said the store struggled after the pandemic hit in 2020, was forced to close for a time and barely survived.
“Things just disappeared, like when everyone stopped going to work, my breakfast business disappeared; the evening business disappeared. We were basically surviving on our lunch business. … And we still have a ways to go,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich credited Mayor Murello for alerting him to the Morris County Small Business Grant Program, which the Morris County Board of County Commissioners created on Valentine’s Day with the slogan, “Morris County Loves Small Business.” The program was developed using $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars received by the county.
“We really appreciate someone like yourself hanging in there. We know it it’s been really, really tough – and we made this one of our priorities,” said Commissioner Krickus of launching the small business grant program.
“We’re really glad you applied, and congratulations,” Krickus said.
About $2 million remains in the Morris County Small Business Program, which has provided most successful applicants the maximum $15,000 permitted in the grant program. The Commissioners continue to personally deliver some of the checks to let small business owners, as well as nonprofits know the program remains active.