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By NANCY IMPERIALE
Bo Lynn’s Grocery has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1936, the iconic white wooden store at 850 Port Leon Drive has been a community mainstay in St. Marks for more than 80 years.
The Florida National Register Review Board met to consider the nomination in December and confirmed Bo Lynn’s designation in February.
When the official plaque arrives, owner Joy Brown – known to generations as “Miss Joy” – has plans for it.
“I want a big one and to put it up right there,” Miss Joy said, pointing to the middle of the ceiling. “Where everybody can enjoy it.”
Many volunteers have worked hard over the years doing the research and completing the paperwork to earn the national register listing, including Glenda and Mike Pruitt, Mickey and Phil Cantner, and Mr. Bo Lynn’s daughter, Donna Card, and her husband, Norm.
Bo Lynn’s is named for J.T. “Bo” Lynn, who built the store and whose family were among early settlers of St. Marks. Mr. Lynn ran the store until his death, and then his wife ran it. Miss Joy and her husband purchased the store in 1965.
“The Browns had three young boys, huge shoes to fill, and a dedication for success,” the Wakulla County Chamber wrote in honoring Bo Lynn’s with a 2016 Business Excellence Award.
“Bo Lynn’s grocery is the oldest commercial retail store building still standing in St. Marks,” the Chamber noted. “Other gas stations, stores and restaurants have come and gone, but Ms. Joy’s Bo Lynn’s grocery store has survived….Stepping into Ms. Joy’s is an unfortgettable experience. Ms. Joy is a hard worker and someone who truly cares about history, sharing it with strangers and friends, taking us back to a different time.”
Miss Joy has kept all of the wooden display cases, the ancient giant cooler, the chopping block, the meat case, even the paint on the walls.
“Mr. Bo Lynn had it built to his perfection,” Miss Joy says. “I like to keep things here just as they always have been.”
That’s why she has not replaced the white formica counter, worn to a brown patina in front of the cash register where nearly a century of customers have paid for items.
They say around Wakulla that “if Bo Lynn’s doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.” In the days before automobiles, being the only store between the coast and Woodville was a lifesaver for those who lived here.
“We’ve supplied tugboats with supplies,” Miss Joy said. “Sponge divers came here. We still have lots of boaters holed up here, especially in bad weather. And news people come here during every hurricane.”
Years of hurricanes and floods forced Miss Joy to remove the hand-crafted tongue-and-groove floors at Bo Lynn’s. But not the ceiling, which is still a creamy swath of thin straight planks.
Miss Joy, a registered notary, has married numerous couples in the store.
“Why do they get married at Bo Lynn’s?” Miss Joy asked. “Because I’m always here so if they want me to marry them, they have to do it here.”
Bo Lynn’s used to hand-cut meats, but demand fell so they stopped. They still offer credit to regulars, and a unique shopping experience to every newcomer who walks in.
“We think it’s wonderful! Different,” said Mae Vaivods, who stopped in the store recently for some snacks during a visit from Ontario. “It’s so nice to see something 80 years old that’s still standing.”
Miss Joy said the best part of running Bo Lynn’s has been the people she’s met.
“The community gives you such a wonderful feeling,” she said. “And we get people visiting from everywhere. Paris. Australia. Many from Germany. Switzerland. I had my first visitor from Israel a couple weeks ago.” A guest book is filled with years’ worth of neat signatures from around the globe.
Miss Joy was born in Dublin, Ga., but moved here in 1961, four years before she bought the store. She says those four years at home with her kids were “heaven.”
Her son Michael passed away in 2009. Sons Larry and Jeff live in Wakulla and Jeff helps out regularly with the store. Miss Joy also has four grandchildren – do they plan to run the store one day?
“I don’t know,” she said of the grandkids, ages 1½ to 3. “They like to play in it.”
Bo Lynn’s is open daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Sunday. What does Miss Joy do on Sundays?
“Scrub floors. Clean windows. Rotate stock. Pick up supplies. Get the store ready.”
Just like she hasn’t gotten tired of the décor, Miss Joy never gets tired of being at Bo Lynn’s.
“Everybody has to be someplace,” she says, “and I’d rather be here.”