Ghosts may dwell at the J.F. Babcock Feed Mill, a rustic Ravenna timepiece
where past and present are intimately intertwined.
The oldest continually-operated business on Main Street in Ravenna, Babcock
is not only a warehouse of animal feed, grass seeds and fertilizers; it
is also a sort of museum housing relics from a bygone age.
"Our customers see that we're an old-fashioned store, but they don't
realize that, by walking up these steps, you walk into the past," said
part-owner Karen Schafer, in reference to the stairs connecting the building's
first and second floors. "You can almost hear the ghosts talking and
the old mill machines humming."
The business, which assumed its present name in 1903, has changed considerably
since it opened in 1881 as The Ravenna Steam Flour Mills.
In those days, steam-driven turbines made flour from wheat carted in horse-drawn
wagons over dusty roads. In a sense, however, time has stood still at 408
W. Main St.
The gas-powered pot-belly stove, for example, thought to date from the late
1800's, is still a source of heat for the store and its patrons. The metal
scoops used to fill grain orders are pockmarked with scares dating to the
turn of the century. And the floor scale bearing the county auditor's seal
of approval is 116 years old.
Other items are idle relics, from the 19th century drive-wheel that sits
behind bags of bird seed to the grain-elevators tucked away in the walls
to turn-of-the-century toolboxes for which "antique dealers would pay
"It would be a sin to put fancy things all over the store," Schafer
said. "That would destroy the aura and mystique."
The Schafer family has owned Babcock's since the early 1950's and family
members have participated in the store's operation since 1906.