The first stores in Pargas were small and often in the merchant’s own home. The shop was often very small and rarely held more than a few people at a time.
Cooperative stores were usually more spacious than the other shops. The goods were made visible by piling them on shelves along the walls. Sacks of flour and oatmeal stood on the floor beside a herring barrel. Hard candies were in glass jars and the counter was filled with drawers. The drawers contained dry goods such as coffee. A customer remembered a shop in Old Town thatsold “three different kinds of coffee” from the same one and same drawer. On the battered counter was placed a large sugar peak, balance scale and sometimes a steelyard. Cash registers were not common until the 1920s.
The cooperative store in Old Town opened in 1904 at the Klockarståget street and the building has since been rebuilt on several occasions. In the beginning the acquisition of goods for the store was difficult and board members had to contribute with their own money to get the business going.
Competition was not noticeable between the shops in town before the cooperative. The prices were pushed down and stores competed primarily with selling newer and better products. Loyal customers received rewards of gifts in the form of a package prunes or raisins, cups, plates or other utility goods. A child who came in with his parents could also get a hard candy cone “on the house”. The cooperative store flourished and many affiliates were founded in other parts of Pargas.
The cooperative store was the first store in Pargas that started giving bonuses. Businesses in Old Town declined gradually in the 1900s as a the new town center grew up on the other side of the strait. The growing lime stone industry was the main reason for the shift of the economic center away from the old “Malmen”. New businesses emerged, in 1908 the Pargas Workers Cooperative Store opened on the new “Malmen” and it was followed by the Pargas Farmers Store in 1917.
The shop owner and employees were commonly regarded as honest people, but some cheating did occur. A shopkeeper was infamous for her habit of hiding a ten penny coin underneath the paper on the scale. She therefore received the nickname of “Stingy-Fia”.
The cooperative store had several managers, the first was C.H. Jeansson (1904-1908) who was the one who set up the business venture. Young local girls were hired as store assistants. The salary was modest and the working days were long, ranging between twelve and sixteen hours. In addition to attending to customers, the assistants had to clean the store and heat the stove if it became too cold. Oil lamps provided necessary light before electric light became more popular in the 1920s. During the winter month the store was open between 7:30 and 20:00 and opening hours were extended an hour during summer.
Goods were sold by the liter, potatoes were sold in 2-5 liter casks. The metric system was introduced in Finland in the 1880s, but in Pargas people relied on cubits and feet up to the 1920s. People made most there purchases locally, but people would travel to Turku for luxury items and alcohol. People from Kimito island would visit stores during cold ice winters, travelling across the sea ice.