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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Racket Stores

by William S. Powell, 2006

Advertisement for 'The Big Racket Store,' Raleigh, 1889. Image from the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Racket stores were individually owned and operated retail businesses carrying a large assortment of merchandise not unlike that of a country store or, later, a five-and-dime store. Racket stores offered shoes, dry goods, groceries, hardware, tableware, pots and pans, washtubs, ladies' and men's ready-to-wear clothing, and other merchandise at low prices. The earliest known use of the term was in Asheville, where an establishment called the Racket Store opened in 1887. In May 1888 William Henry Belk opened a store in Monroe called the New York Racket. "New York" was included in the name apparently to suggest class. There were also racket stores in Charlotte and Statesville; these stores apparently closed before 1929, but the one in Asheville was in operation as late as 1937. Racket stores appeared elsewhere in the South, but there seem to have been none in the North.

Additional Resources:

Emerson, Charles. Chas. Emerson's North Carolina tobacco belt directory. Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards and Broughton. 1886. p. 575 and 645.

Image Credits:

North Carolina Agricultural Society. Premium list of the Twenty-Ninth annual fair of the North Carolina State Agricultural Society. 1889. p. 49.,221902 (accessed September 24, 2012).



So glad to find this! My grandpa used to say his "pappy" worked in a "racket store" in Oklahoma Territory before statehood. We always wondered what it was, assuming it didn't refer to equipment used in the tennis game.


Dear Ann,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia. We are glad that it was super helpful.

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library


My Grandfather, Zenas E. Keck, had a variety store at 105 N. Main Street in Bentonville, Arkansas in the early 1900s which he closed in 1918. It was referred to as a “racket” store and in the 1950s was the location where Sam Walton opened his first Bentonville “Walmart”.


Moville Iowa has a Racket Store on the north side of Main Street by 1918; owner/operator is Mrs JT Davis. Two photos are on the Moville Historical Society Facebook page. Search “Racket.”
Info also found on Moville Downtown Businesses— 1918. “Iowa State Gazetteer & Business Directory” Vol. 19; p. 740.


In 1918, my grandfather co-owned the "New York Racket Store" in Hillsdale, Michigan.


The little town of Star, N.C., in Montgomery County, had a racket store called "London Racket," with B.L Spencer as proprietor in 1896. I have a copy of a letterhead from there.


Nannibel's Racket Store operated in Summerville PA from sometime after the Civil War until Nannibel's death in 1950.

I bought penny candy there as a child in the '40s.

See "Troy/Summerville Pennsylvania" published by the Summerville, Pennsylvania Story Project pages 140-143.


As to the earliest and the North, George C. Shaler had a 'Racket Store' in Gilboa, NY. It was open in 1867 according to NYS business listings. After the local paper started in late 1878, his ads can be seen in its pages. That paper is the Gilboa Monitor, available online. Also see article on Shaler in the Gilboa Historical Society Quarterly, Summer 2016.


I grew up going to "The Racket Store" in McConnellsburg, PA. The store closed slightly less than a decade ago but was in continuous operation for over 100 years. They celebrated their 100 yr anniversary in 1997.

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