Owners have changed, stock has changed and the town has changed, but after nearly 32 years, the beat goes on for Wooden Indian general manager Frances Cowgill.
A native Sussex Countian, Cowgill started at the Wooden Indian in May 1978, almost a year after the store first opened. She was a friend of the Wooden Indian’s founders, Ed Conroy and Roy Anderson.
Cowgill said the store was more “country” when it first opened at 25 Baltimore Ave. in Rehoboth Beach.
“We had coffee beans that we ground. And they were in filled-up bags, like in the old country stores. And then we had a lot of homemade items, the sock monkeys and things like that,” she said.
The store also began selling its long-running Waterford Crystal line and Herend china.
Cowgill grew up in Milton and Rehoboth and hasn’t moved far from either place.
“In fact, when I was in third grade we lived on a farm where Walmart is now,” she said.
Cowgill said Rehoboth used to close Labor Day and open Memorial Day. “In fact, we [the Wooden Indian] closed – at the beginning – after New Year’s and opened again on Good Friday.”
These days the store, now under fourth owners Joe Yasik and Paul Roscosky, stays open year-round. Under its new ownership, the Wooden Indian has evolved again, keeping its higher-end lines such as Faberge but also adding lower-priced lines and a bridal registry.
In addition to china and gifts, the Wooden Indian still keeps its country store roots with homemade preserves, sauces, gift baskets and Godiva chocolates.
As general manager, Cowgill takes care of many of the day-to-day operations of the store, such as pricing, scheduling, payroll and checking in items.
“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s fun to see the different changes and the different customers. It makes it nice to know everybody,” she said.
While she has no children or grandchildren herself, Cowgill does have a large extended family: “Three sisters, 10 nieces and nephews, 19 great-nieces and nephews and six great-great.”
Cowgill said she doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
“I tell people you never get old until you retire. So I just keep on going,” she said.