Photos and Story by Amy Howe

Unique, eclectic, unmatched: these are a few ways to describe Modern Variety. With an array of different items, Modern Variety offers choices other stores simply can’t compete with, and it’s done with purpose. Celebrating 60 years this summer, Modern Variety is a family-run business with a rich history. And, it all started in Aurora, Missouri. 

J.D. Pilkenton was working at B&T Supermarket as a meat cutter when the supermarket moved into a new, larger building, vacating the space that led J.D. to decide to leave the supermarket and go into business for himself. He opened Modern Variety in July 1962 in Aurora. J.D.’s main focus was toys back then and still is today. As business grew, J.D. sold part interest in the store to John Jones in 1967, opened another store in Monett in 1969 and eventually brought his sons on board in the early ‘80s. Today, the two stores are managed by J.D.’s sons, Scott and Ben Pilkenton. 

If you’re looking for something unusual, it’s a must to check Modern Variety. You’ll find items such as hair nets, laminating sheets, Cherry Mash candy, old-fashioned candy, backscratchers, flour sack towels, model cars and batons. But, don’t be fooled, Modern Variety also offers common items like toys, puzzles, memorial flowers and photo albums. Honestly, there is so much to see, it’s too much to list! 

This is what makes Modern Variety a special asset to its communities, and the family knows it’s important to have a variety of items to purchase and for staff to be available on the floor during the day greeting customers. 

“Seeing our customers is one of our favorite things,” said Scott. “We love seeing little kids’ faces light up when they find that special toy or candy item.” The family also enjoys going to market and seeing new merchandise to bring into the store. 

Another fun fact about Modern Variety is they have a post office in the store for mailing packages and purchasing stamps. They also ship UPS packages. This is another small way to offer a great service to customers. 

Modern Variety is committed to serving the community, too. They are a member of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and always donate merchandise to local civic organizations in the community. “We are proud to support our community in any way we can,” said Scott. “They support us, and we always try to give back, as well.” 

While Scott and Ben manage the stores, you’ll still see J.D. around helping. When J.D.’s not at the stores, he enjoys playing bridge and recently achieved his Life Master designation. 

The next time you’re looking for a fun or unusual gift, be sure to stop by Modern Variety. And, while you’re there, congratulate them on their 60-year anniversary! 

Modern Variety

30 E. College St., Aurora, MO