Ray's Country Store is located at the junction of Hwy. 76 & EE in Douglas County, better known locally as "Booger County". The store was built in 1932 and was successively Holt's, Gregor's, Coble's and Finley's.
The store has sold feed, farm supplies, groceries and gas since it was first built. In 1980 the store was purchased by Ray McCall from Herb and Carol Finley. Today Grateful Dead and hippie-era memorabilia as well as tye-dye t-shirts are for sale. Why is the store so different now? Perhaps it Ray.
The son of a Santa Fe Railroad man, Ray grew up in Wichita Kansas. As a young man, he worked as an independent trucker. His partner, John Hamby of Dora Missouri talked about the Ozarks as a place that would suit Ray's personality, which was profoundly influenced by Herman Hesse, Martin Luther King, Rudolf Steiner, and the Eastern religions. Ray is a "Rainbow Person" who believes in the ideals of the 1960's counter-culture: love, peace, compassion and social justice.
Owning the store is not an easy life. The front door opens at dawn and closes after dark seven days a week. Forget weekends and vacations. After several years Ray was "burned out;" he leased the store, moved to Springfield Missouri and bought a house near Southwest Missouri State University. Ray's wife, Maria Ramos was born in Rio Bravo, Mexico on the south bank of the Rio Grande River, 50 miles inland from the Gulf.
The youngest of eight children, Maria grew up in four houses built side-by-side with her extended family. The houses had concrete walls, tin roofs and dirt floors. Jobs were scarce; wages low, sanitation primitive and social services were non-existent. Through her teens, twenties and thirties, Maria never married nor did she have any boyfriends. She and her sister Sophia converted to the Assemblies of God, and Maria embraced her new religion with fervor. Jesus she said, "Was her husband." To help her family financially, Maria crossed the border illegally to find work.
A church in McAllen Texas provided her with a truck bed that had been converted to a small bed room; she held dry-cleaning and dishwashing jobs to support herself and her family back in Mexico. When amnesty was offered to undocumented workers, Maria was granted a green card to work legally. Meanwhile in Springfield Missouri Ray joined the Unity Church. At an Advanced Adult Metaphysical Theology study group, Ray befriended a man who planned to start a business as a "Coyote" under the pseudonym of "Senor Bob." Bob intended to transport Mexicans to work in chicken processing plants; in exchange his clients would pay him a portion of their wages. In McAllen Texas Senor Bob recruited Maria another woman and a man. on a bitterly cold January night they arrived in Springfield Missouri.
Maria had never seen snow; she was forty one and only spoke a few words of English. Senior Bob awakened Ray late that night. Could he help Maria and the others? Disastrously, the coyote's schemes had unraveled; there were no jobs or places to live for this group. For the next several weeks Ray slept in his '48 Chevy school bus allowing the three Mexican's to stay in his house. When the others left, Maria was alone, confused and surrounded by strangers she couldn't understand. Ray's study group urged him to marry Maria who saw him as a man of means, the owner of a house and business.
Together they would make Ray's Country Store a thriving enterprise; she would send part of the profits home to her family. In 1994 they married and moved into the back of the store. Maria served delicious tamale dinners in the tiny restaurant section of the store. The ambiance was unique and occasionally Ray would serenade their guests with songs. Sit a while and chat with the customers; before we leave remember to tell Maria how many will dine later. Maria has since passed on to heaven and Ray has continued to keep the store active as well as made improvements over the years.
Many travelers have found their way to the little Country Store nestled in the Ozark backwoods and while some things may have changed, many have stayed the same. People still come by for kind conversation and a song or two. Often on full moon nights people congregate to the little country store to enjoy guitar playing, drumming and even some belly dancing.
Over the years Ray has become a mainstay in the community and trusted friend to many. His unique style and kindness is known by many who call him friend. If you get a chance to stop in and visit please do, you wont be disappointed.
Open 7 Days a Week 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Please contact Ray by phone (417) 948-7349