Only in York County

Part of the USA Today Network

Ask Joan: Old World Import Shop edition

I’m back from vacation, bearing lots of fun souvenirs and a DESPERATE wish for warmer temperatures!

None of my souvenirs, though, are as cool and unique as some of the finds talked about in today’s column.

Today’s Ask Joan is a special follow-up edition on the Old World Import Shop

1. In the Sept. 4 edition of Ask Joan, readers Jean Frigm and Janeen both wrote, seeking info on what they remembered as an import shop on East Market Street in downtown York.

I received MANY responses with memories of this store!

One of my favorite sources for info is Ann Funk, at the Information Services desk at Martin Library. Ann was able to pull out the 1972 York City Polk Directory and get me the name and specific address of Old World Imports, 145 E. Market St.

Sue Swartz of the Hellam area writes, “I believe the import shop you referenced… was the Old World Import Shop. Shopping downtown was a ritual with us teenagers back int he 60s, and Old World Import was always one of the stops for my husband and me. I think it was operated (and owned?) by one of the wives from the law firm of Anderson, Ports, May, Beers and Blakey (at least that’s what we heard). The law firm was either directly above or just down the street from the shop.”

“Old World had quite the atmosphere – kinda dim, being a basement shop, and the layout: with the stone wall-like running water “fountain,” along with the decor and merchandise, definitely made you feel you were somewhere other than York, PA – at least for a little while!”

Like Jean, who wrote originally, Sue said she also bought poison rings at the shop. “A really neat tiger-eye was my favorite,” she said. “The jewelry was fantastic, but they offered all kinds of unusual ‘worldly’ gifts as well. (Maybe we could arrange a comeback!?)”

Vicky Seeger recalled, “I believe it was near Martin Memorial Library. You went down steps and it was partly below ground. My friend and I were teenagers at the time and would go to the library to check out record albums and we would wander around the store afterwards. Had gifts from all around the world, really unique things. I’m not sure how long it was there, but we remember it being in the 70s.”

I also heard from Stef Crumbling, who remembered Old World as a wonderful place to visit. “My mom and sister and I always stopped there when we made downtown trips. On one such visit, either my sister or I (I’ll blame it on her) broke a lovely ginger jar and had to buy it. It sat for years with a glued lid atop my grandma’s piano.”

Deb McCoy writes, “I loved to shop there for unique items from around the world. Located down small steps into a stone walled basement, it was like entering a storybook treasure cave filled from floor to ceiling. I bought an old mission bell there. The owner told me she purchased items on her world travels. It was a gem.”

And Karen Boyle says, “I still think of that shop when I walk by those steps that went down to the shop. I’m old enough to remember so many great stores downtown York that a building or old storefront will evoke fond memories of shopping in the city.”

Another Karen, Karen Lillie, writes, “My sister, Libby Hostetter Mack, worked at the Import Shop over Christmas break from University of Arizona in 1970. It was located in the basement in the Martin Library block of East Market Street. It was owned by Mrs. Ports. Her husband was an attorney and I believe his office was above the store. She loved working there. She remembers buying a Peruvian poncho from the store. She also remembers the poison rings. There were 3 rooms of merchandise some of which she thinks Mr. and Mrs. Ports purchased on their travels. It was also one of my favorite stores to buy unique and unusual gifts.”

Bern Bevenour said Karen’s response was on the money. He writes, “The attorney’s name was Horace Ports and his wife ran the shop. The merchandise on sale was acquired in their many trips abroad. It was a unique store with many, many interesting items for sale from many different cultures. It was a very unique shopping experience.”

I also heard from Susan Syms, who remembered the incense burners and trinkets from around the world, and brought up a modern store in comparison that helped me visualize Old World; she compared it to the fair-trade stores Ten Thousand Villages, which I love visiting!

Pam Lee said, “I shopped there around 1970 and recall buying an Asian tea set for a wedding gift. The store was exotic and smelled strongly of incense. I guess you might call it a hippy gift shop. Next to it in another basement was The Web, a music club which did not serve alcohol.” (I have even more memories of The Web to share, so those will come in a future post!)

And finally, just as I sat down to write today’s post, I heard from LoAnn Clark, who says, “It was one of my favorite places to find unusual gifts. Among my purchases from the shop were a drum from India for a friend who taught music, and a leather covered wine decanter from Spain.”

Thanks to all who had great memories of this store to share!

Got any questions? Ask Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future “Ask Joan” column on this blog. I get a large volume, but I will feature three each week and answer as many as possible!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.