Five years ago, when Woodrow and Veronica Carpenter were looking for a business to call their own, it was an easy decision after friends told them that Orchard Hills Package Store was available.
“We like that it’s on Route 66,” Woody (Woodrow’s nickname) recalls. “We always wanted to have a business on Route 66. And this one has been here longer than most.”
In fact, Orchard Hills Package Store is one of two Lebanon businesses on Route 66 celebrating 75th anniversaries this year. Orchard Hills and the Munger Moss Motel both will receive plaques from the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society on June 19 at the Route 66 Festival recognizing the achievement.
As far as the Carpenters know, they are only the fourth owners of Orchard Hills Package Store. The business was founded on Route 66 by the late Dean Elmore in 1946. Its first home was a rock building east of today’s Crow Paint and Glass. The site now is part of Ed Morse Ford.
Elmore moved the business to its present location at the northeast corner of Route 66 (Elm Street) and Washington in 1971.
That brick building has historic significance as the first of two Lebanon gas stations built in the 1930s by O.E. Carter and Ed Lawson. The station featured Barnsdall gas but later converted to Phillips 66.
The gas station’s garage door now is the Orchard Hills entrance and front window, and the garage where Carter and Lawson serviced cars is retail floor space today. Bulk anti-freeze cans that Woody found in the attic now are on display atop a cooler. A second garage on the east side, now a walk-in cooler, was added in the 1960s.
Elmore still was running Orchard Hills when he died in 2003 at age 86. He had been in business on Route 66 for 57 years. Snapshots of Elmore at the old store in the 1950s and his original light-and-water deposit receipt from 1946 hang on an inside door.
“I still have customers come in who remember him,” Veronica says. Elmore’s grandson, David Wheeler, succeeded him as Orchard Hills owner. The Carpenters bought the business in September 2016 from Dean and Phyllis Evans and are in the process of buying the building from Wheeler.
“Neither one of us was born here, but we’ve lived here quite some time,” Veronica says, adding that her children never went to school anywhere but Lebanon.
The Carpenters have a son and a daughter, and Woody has another son.
Business has been good, and they look at Orchard Hills as a long-term commitment.
“We want to keep it in our family,” Woody says. “Maybe it can stay here another 75 years. That would be nice.”