Local store changes with the times
Jay O’Hurley, owner of O’Hurley’s General Store in Shepherdstown, was born in the same room in which he now sleeps. He said he has owned and operated his father’s store for around 38 years and has seen many changes in town during that time.
O’Hurley’s has changed over the years as well, according to Jay. When he returned to Shepherdstown to take over the store for his father, Jay said it took him quite a while to make it look like he wanted.
“If I ran the store like my father did, we’d be out of business,” Jay said. “However, if he had run the store like I do, he’d have gone out of business. We’ve had to change with the times.”
Jay said the definition of general store has changed in recent years, meaning the store had to change as well. When O’Hurley’s was his father’s, Jay said customers could purchase tires, batteries, bread and other necessities. However, O’Hurley’s now serves as a traditional musical hub in town and a place for local wares.
Jay also operates a fully functioning black smith forge at O’Hurley’s, and he works with carpentry. He uses those mediums to deal with locals on a consignment basis. In addition to tailoring the appearance and function of O’Hurley’s in town, Jay said he also added the Celtic, Scots-Irish flare seen in the store.
Inspired by the old time tradition Scots-Irish music, Jay said O’Hurley’s weekly jam sessions are largely dictated by those who play. Each musician gets a chance to pick a tune, according to Jay, and others join the song as it evolves.
All who can play are welcome to join the group – those who can’t play are welcome to watch quietly, Jay said. Since 1979, Jay said he has seen people come and go from Thursday night jam sessions, and the variety of instruments is impressive as well. Jay plays an instrument called the hammer dulcimer, a close musical relative of the traditional Appalachian dulcimer.
“The dulcimer is so old it was mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible,” Jay said. “German, Asian and other cultures had dulcimers as well. Shepherdstown has become a modern mecca for dulcimers and players.”
In addition to dulcimers, guitars, banjos, flutes, violins, mandolins and a celtic harp, musicians tapped their feet in time with the rhythm and sang songs to take people back to an earlier time reminiscent of Appalachian music and culture.
O’Hurley’s holds jam sessions every Thursday night at approximately 7:30 p.m.