By Kellen M. Quigley

For those traveling Route 219 just south of Ellicottville and looking for a quick snack, some unique collectibles or general country items, there’s a new place just off the main highway that’s now open.

Clair’s Country Store, located at 4269 Kill Buck Road in Great Valley, officially opened March 16 under the ownership of Clair Conklin.

“I have all the different beverages and snacks and I bring in new stuff all the time,” he said. “I just talked with the Hershey’s ice cream people, so that’ll be coming in the next week or two. I hope to get the milk in once the government opens everything back up, and I’ll be selling beer and all that later down the line.”

Although his timing with the recent shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t ideal, Conklin said business has been steady so far, especially since he also sells firewood at the store.

“A lot of people are running out because they’re staying at home and going through a lot more than they thought they were going to,” he said. “That’s helped me out a lot so far. I’m very diversified.”

Originally from Titusville, Pa., Conklin came back to the Salamanca area in 2013 when he opened a coin shop on the grounds of The Peace Creek Inn, owned by Conklin’s sister and brother-in-law.

“I had just retired from the sheriff’s department in Brunswick County, N.C. when I decided to come back north, so you might say this is my retirement business,” he said of the coin shop in 2013.

Conklin was already in the coin business in Southport, N.C. when he made the move north to open his coin shop in Great Valley. Inside the new Country Store, Conkin still has his cases of coins on display in addition to general convenience store items and some other odds and ends.

“I used to be in the grocery business and I used to own a coin shop, antique store, memorabilia shop and a hunting and fishing store,” he explained. “Now I’ve packed it all into one little store for me for retirement.”

Conklin said the location of the store is a prime spot for people traveling Route 219 and taking the Kill Buck Road short cut rather than the slower main route through Salamanca. He said he lives nearby and bought the property for the store about four years ago.

However, with the social distancing and quarantine, Conklin said business has been slower.

“I wanted to be ready for when the summertime got here,” he said. “All the campers would be coming up here by the droves. … Instead of 3,000 people a day, it’s 200 or 300 now.”

The building itself is different but fits right in with the surroundings, more reminiscent of a log cabin than a corner store. Conkin said it’s the first time a new building has been constructed for a business in the town for several years.

“I’ve brought some of the wood into the inside of it,” he said. “There’s showcases where I have a megalodon tooth, antique documents that are 200 years old and different stuff like that. I just keep adding a little bit of my own flavor.”

Although business hours are flexible at this time, Conklin said the store is open every day generally from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can call the store at (716) 265-2024.