At some point, the General Store opened in Hawkins's town square, with Donald Melvald acting as shopkeeper. In 1973, Joyce Byers was employed there as a retail clerk, where she would work long hours and on holidays to make ends meet.
On November 7, 1983, Joyce prepared to go to work as usual, but became distracted after discovering that her youngest son was missing; in response, Donald decided to give her some time off, with a man named Jeffrey covering for her.
After her telephone got "fried" during a strange call, Joyce drove out to the store to purchase a replacement. As she was low on cash, Joyce requested a two weeks advance payment, to which Donald reluctantly agreed. The next day, she went back to the store in order to buy more Christmas lights.