“Did they have stores in the Middle Ages?” At the Ozark Medieval Fortress, guests enter and check in through the gift shop and so frequently ask about shops and merchants of the Medieval. Our cozy souvenir shop would be a big city super center to a Medieval shopper. Aside from the fact that there is electricity, modern restrooms and everything constructed according to American building codes, the store at the Ozark Medieval Fortress actually reflects a very important development of the high Middle Ages. That is the development of money commerce, traders and stores. With increased peace after the Vikings decided to trade instead of raid, Northern Europe started to see the development of commerce. Kings began to give charters to start cities as opposed to just nobles with their rural fiefdoms or bishops with their “fiefdoms”. In the cities, manufacturing by the guilds and trading by the merchants grew.
In the Middle Ages it was most common to have a small specialty shop selling one kind of good, whether it be baskets, pots, meats, clothing or whatever. Open air stalls during times of festivals were common. A store would commonly be on the first floor and the family would live above. Often shops selling similar goods would be located on the same street and the street would be named appropriately, such as Cobbler Street, Bakers Street, or Cooper Street. The General Store was still a thing of the future and a WalMart store as big as the castle would be unimaginable. At the Ozark Medieval Fortress the most authentic aspect of the gift shop is in the sale of goods that have been made by the onsite potter, basket weaver, illuminator, weaver and blacksmith.
NOTE: The Ozark Medieval Fortress is now open for the 2011 season. Check their website for operating hours and days. I look forward to seeing you.