In 1933, Edgar Rohr began selling dry goods and penny candy to Manassas residents and farm families who came to town to shop.
Now, 47 years later, his store continues to offer the low-priced, homey merchandise still in demand among people who live much the same way their parents and grandparents did.
"There are a lot of things I could still sell today, but manufacturers just don't make them anymore," he said, sitting in his cluttered office at the rear of Rohr's 5 and 10 on Rte. 28.
"There is something called a sadiron, for instance, which is a flat iron with a detachable handle. People used to come in and buy handle replacements up until three or four years ago when manufuacturers quit making them.
"I'm sure a lot of people just wanted them for antiques, but I know for a fact that a few people still iron that way, heating the flat iron on a stove near the ironing board."
Rohr's store bears almost no resemblance to the suburban discount stores and shopping mall outlets most Americans patronize. Alert clerks, most of whom are middle-aged women, wait on customers from behind the candy counters in the narrow aisles.
"We still actually have three different kinds of candy that only cost a penny. But I've had to raise some prices because they cost me more," Rohr said regretfully. "I've been determined to keep prices as low as i can."
Rohr insists his store is not an anachronism. He says he does a respectable $200,000-a-year business dealing in old-fashioned goods that often can't be found elsewhere.
"I depend on word of mouth for advertising, basically," he said. "Older people already know about the store and younger people who come in find that they like it."
The toy department seems particularly old-fashioned: "Dolly Care" sets, steel jacks and bright red rubber balls, wooden toy rolling pins and roller-skate repair kits with wheels of gray steel, not the modern polymer material.
A large plastic stork stands next to a hand-lettered sign that reads: "Brighten up your baby shower with this hand-painted stork! Rent it now for only $1.04, tax included.
Housewares also evoke an earlier time: dishes in the classic blue willow pattern, aluminum pots and pans circa 1930, a graniteware coffee percolator that holds five quarts.
"That blue willow is pottery that is made in Scio, Ohio," Rohr said. "I havaen't seen imported blue willow china in years, so I stock this. People still buy it.
And old-fashioned perculators still sell, although not like they used to. We used to sell two or three a week, now we sell one or two a month.
"But people know they can find one here if they want one. We have things people simply can't find other places."
Rohr, a native of New York state, has lived in Virginia so long his accent is softly southern. He has been a member of the Manassas City Council for 26 years.
Rohr also operates a private automobile museum in Manassas, which he opens to the public at no charge. Sunday afternoons when he is not traveling. "I bought my first antique car in 1937," Rohr recalled. "It was a 1915 Ford that my mother had ridden to the hospital the night before I was born."
Now Rohr has 15 antique vehicles in his museum and has been called upon several times to furnish cars for movies and television shows. Most recently he loaned a 1912 Buick for use in the television series, "Backstairs at the White House."
Storekeepng is still Rohr's main occupation, however. His store is continually restocked with the merchandise his customers want: washboards, flat wooden clothes pegs, mousetraps, cardboard flycatchers with cones of sticky goo, bolts of grosgrain ribbon.
"I've stocked this strawberry huller here," Rohr said, picking up a little object priced at 59 cents. "A country girl came in here recently and saw it. She had no idea what it was for, but after I explained, she bought one.
"The next week she was back in and bought eight more. All her neighbors wanted one, too." CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Edgar Rohr of Manassas says his dime store might be old-fashioned, but it's not an anachronism. Rohr opened the dry goods and penny candy store 47 years ago on Rte. 28 to supply residents and farm families with hard-to-find items such as wooden clothes pegs, washboards and strawberry hullers. Today Rohr grosses more than $200,000 a year selling the same types of products he did in 1933. Photos by john dwyier for the WASHINGTON POST