Onward store closed, to reopen with night hours

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

After 99 years of serving the South Delta, the Onward Store has closed while transitioning to new ownership.

The store that opened in 1913 is scheduled to reopen in late September or early October, in time for the annual Great Delta Bear Affair in Rolling Fork, said new owner Mollie Van Devender.

“Basically, I’m just tearing off a part that was added on in the back,” she said.

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The sale of the store was completed about two weeks ago, and the doors closed June 10.

The store will still carry general goods, as it has for nearly a century, she said, but a new menu and nighttime hours are in the works.

“I am carrying on what has been the tradition historically, but I am adapting,” Van Devender said.

Onward, considered to be the birthplace of the teddy bear, is at the crossroads of Mississippi 1 and U.S. 61 North, about 31 miles north of Vicksburg and about 15 miles south of Rolling Fork. In 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt visited the area to hunt black bears but refused to kill one a guide had tethered to a tree.

Roosevelt’s hunting trip became the topic of a Washington Post political cartoon that inspired a toy-maker to create the iconic teddy bear.

Van Devender and her husband, William, are the former owners of Blue Heron Farm in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. President Barack Obama and his family rented the farm as a vacation home until the Van Devenders sold it to a British architect in December.