Tanya Mann and her husband, Jeff Grimshaw, discovered Mount Gretna while living in Philadelphia, stumbling onto the Lebanon County summer retreat (and for some, year-round hometown) through a neighbor who owned a getaway there.

About five years ago, the couple bought a Gretna house they loved, and during the pandemic found themselves spending more and more time at what was originally a weekend place.

Jeff Grimshaw, left, and Tanya Mann are the couple behind MG Mercantile, which opened last week in the former Gretna branch of the Lebanon County Trust Company. Both work professionally as management consultants and, as Mann jokes, other than some of her own retail “experience” as a shopper and a stint behind the Kmart watch counter by her husband some decades ago, this is their first foray into retail. (Will Trostel)

Now, the couple is here full-time, and operating Gretna’s newest retail establishment – MG Mercantile, at 501 PA Route 117. Through August, the store will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Off-season hours are yet to be determined.

MG Mercantile will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through August. Hours for September and beyond have not yet been determined. (Will Trostel)

MG Mercantile is not Mann and Grimshaw’s first venture together. The two are also both principals in the management consulting firm MGStrat, focusing on leadership development and culture change.

Mann still recalls the first time she got off the turnpike and turned onto Route 117, finding herself a world away from the city.

“It’s just a magical place,” said Mann, who spoke to LebTown on Tuesday, having just finished up MG Mercantile’s four-day “Neighbor Preview.”

Tanya Mann at the counter of MG Mercantile, at 501 PA Route 117 in the former Gretna branch of the Lebanon County Trust Company. Mann developed the concept and the branding for the store, and sourced all of the items, with a goal of offering a truly unique selection. (Will Trostel)

MG Mercantile is located in the former Gretna branch of the Lebanon County Trust Company. Mann and Grimshaw bought the building for $300,000 in September.

The purchase was in some ways indicative of the neighborly, cooperative spirit emblematic of Gretna, home to the Pennsylvania Chautauqua – originally, Mann had been helping the two previous owners chart out a transformation of the space from commercial to residential with an in-home business. When COVID presented unanticipated challenges to that project, Mann ended up pursuing a path to take some of her own ideas forward, with the blessing of the two “wonderful gentlemen” who had previously owned the former bank building.

Ad from the Jan. 26, 1977, edition of the Lebanon Daily News.
Outside of MG Mercantile, a shaded patio area is available for customers to enjoy food and drink bought inside the store. (Will Trostel)

It was a marathon to get to last week’s opening, Mann said, with her husband coming in at “mile 25” to help with security cameras and point-of-sale system setup. Mann said that she spent many nights and weekends working with the contractor to figure out the best way to outfit the space, which still features the original bank vault, a motif echoed in the original blueprints and newspaper clippings that will be going up in a gallery this week.

Mann said that the reception has been great so far, with lots of foot traffic making their way to the store thanks to a referral by family and friends. Mann said that the goal is to appeal to all the various segments that make up Gretna, especially during the summer: the day-trippers coming for a bike ride or a show (or a Jigger) and wanting to do one more thing before they head home; the short-term renters who want to treat themselves and maybe pick up something special for dinner; and of course, the year-rounders, who can find everything from last-minute hostess or baby gifts to essentials like drinks, toothbrushes, and even toilet paper.

Outside of MG Mercantile, a shaded patio area is available for customers to enjoy food and drink bought inside the store. (Will Trostel)

Mann did all the buying and sourcing herself, with the goal of stocking MG Mercantile with a truly unique set of goods.

She said she tried to avoid items that are already available at other boutiques in the region. From preserved lemons, to shakshuka, to black mole and vegan cheddar puffs, the foodstuffs for sale are not what you might find browsing the aisles of a local grocery story. Man said it’s been nice to surprise customers, who are delighted to see unexpected items on the shelves.

But an esoteric selection this is not – the food items are ready-to-plate and sure to be crowd pleasers, such as the selection of cheeses (curated by Lititz’s Savory Gourmet) or the already made dishes available from the Brazilian Table, also based in Lititz.

MG Mercantile will also partner with other local vendors and artisans, such as the Good Good Coffee Cart, which was there on Friday, and artist Karen Beall, who has a selection of pottery available at the store, some of which would be just perfect for plating the aforementioned cheese. Mann said that in the future, they might look for a more permanent setup for the coffee cart to setup show, such as making use of the drive-through structure.

Mann said she’s been overwhelmed by the support from the community, receiving flowers, banana bread, champagne, a tea towel, and ample encouragement for the opening.

“Our neighbors and friends – I felt like I was having a baby!,” said Mann. “People were so nice to me. It was unexpected how warm the reception was, and I was overwhelmed and very, very humbled.”

Mann said that she plans to hold a proper grand opening in the fall. In the meantime, a newsletter is available to get alerts as that and other events are scheduled.

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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.

William Trostel is a full-time freelance photographer/videographer based out of Lebanon City. Beginning his career as a hobbyist trying to film his friends skateboarding, his camera quickly turned into a passion. Within two years of being a hobbyist, William began to book portrait sessions and commercial...


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