Stoner Brothers, Sankey's, Falkner & Leckrone, Jack Cinnamon's, Runion's, Groman's, Lake Shore Meats, Smith's, Gaietto's. These and many more names from the past came to life again Monday evening at the Seneca County Museum with the debut of the "Mom and Pop Grocery Stores" exhibit in the museum's Fort Ball Room.
The display cases are filled with advertising, vintage food containers, wrappers, old photos, store fixtures, calendars and other promotional items. More artifacts are lined up above and below the glass cases.
"The earliest one in there, I think, is 1873 (McNeal's)," said Tonia Hoffert, museum director. "I've had the most fun with this display than any other one."
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
The grocery store exhibit stretches out behind museum volunteer Brian Courtney, who conducted research for the display.
When Hoffert started gathering material for the exhibit, she wondered if there would be enough. Local historian Mark Steinmetz started putting photos on the museum's Facebook page to generate interest.
Before long, many descendants of the shopkeepers and local history buffs started responding with memories and trivia. Many also brought in keepsakes from their collections to add to the exhibit.
Soon, the memorabilia overflowed the display cases.
If you go
The "Mom and Pop Grocery Stores" exhibit is to be on display through June.
The Seneca County Museum, 28 Clay St., is open 1-5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 1-4 p.m. the first and third Saturday of each month. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
For more information, visit www.senecacountymuseum.com or call (419) 447-5955.
Hoffert said she, Steinmetz, Brian Courtney and other volunteers were hampered by winter weather, which kept the museum closed for a number of days and delayed completion.
One of the old photos that came in showed pyramids of canned goods stacked on store shelves inside Brandenberg Market. Taking a cue from the photo, Hoffert and her volunteers set up similar pyramids. They used empty cans from the recycling bin and copies of original labels from bygone products.
"We went to an antique store and bought the labels. Then, we made copies from the originals, cut them up and put them on the cans," Hoffert said.
She pointed out a drawing of Sankey's Meat Market.
Courtney said it stood at East Market and Circular streets, near Heidelberg University. Burner and Flechtner's was at 215 E. Market St.
In the 1930s, Jack Cinnamon's, in the Noble block (where the Board of Elections is now) was the place to buy Buckeye Beer.
Groman's was near the original YMCA.
Just west of the Market Street bridge, Stoner Brothers Grocery suffered damage during the 1913 flood. A photograph shows a canopy over the store entrance to keep off the dust during construction of the river walls and the new bridge in the flood's aftermath. The museum exhibit includes a glass-domed, round cheese tray that hung from a pulley at Stoner Brothers.
"It would come down from the ceiling, and they had a rope that would pull it up, so they could cut the cheese," Hoffert said.
Other items of interest include a cherry pitter from Martin and Negele, "cathedral bottles" to hold catsup, pickles and other foods, a grabber to reach products on high shelves, and a Christmas gift pack from 1942. It could be purchased at Kroger and
sent to loved ones overseas in the military.
Courtney also had found some raffle tickets for a drawing.
"They had a contest back in 1954. You could win a range. You'd fill these out and drop them in at Lampe's, Cloverfarm stores or Ricker's," he said.
Runion's Grocery was at Harrison and North Washington streets, near the underpass, as was J.M. Beckley's store. There was Shorty's Supermarket at 88 N. Washington St. and Robenalt's at 28 Melissa St.
Char Distel recalled doing errands for her mom in Musser's at Sixes Corners. Even though Distel was only in elementary school, Mrs. Musser would let her purchase cigarettes for her mother.
When Distel became a teen, Mrs. Musser suddenly stopped that practice, saying her mother needed to buy them herself.
Sally Ann Bakery, 12 Wentz St., was next to The Point. Gaietto's
was on Sandusky Street, near the former Camelback Bridge (over the railroad).
McNeal's, now part of Tiffin University, also was on Sandusky Street across from McCartan's.
Herb Crum said he grew up in that Irish-Italian neighborhood, and
his mother often sent him to McCartan's.
"There was a lady that worked there, Rita Hepp. I was so little I couldn't look over the counter, and she'd want to know what I wanted. So, I'd give her the note my mother had sent along," he said.
The Tiffin City Directory from 1950 lists 41 grocery stores and four meat markets clustered in various neighborhoods. Steinmetz labeled these on a large map of Tiffin.
He also noted one block at Sixes Corners had six stores that somehow managed to stay in business in spite of the competition.
Many women (the primary grocery shoppers) did not drive or have access to a vehicle. Also, few homes had refrigerators, so families needed stores within walking distance for daily needs. In the less-hurried past, people liked to visit with the store keepers and other customers as much as they wanted to shop.
To remember that, the museum exhibit includes a checker board.
"You could pretty much start and go two blocks and hit a grocery store," Hoffert said. "People have said when they were growing up, 'Mom and Dad always had a list for this store and a list for that store.'"
Steinmetz's mother, Ann, said she grew up on Jackson Street. Her mom would send her off to the store with a list and a "little wagon" to cart home her purchases. If the Kroger store didn't have everything, she went across the street to Smith's.
"At Smith's, I'd take the wagon and go up the way a bit and hide it in the bush. (Mrs. Smith) knew what I was doing ... but I got what I needed," Ann Steinmetz said.
Courtney's uncle, Tom Bender, ran Bender's at Sixes Corners.
Courtney's memories included the Kroger store where Staples is now, Foodtown, Romig's (now Rosier's), Lawson's and Open Pantry. What he learned in researching the exhibit surprised him.
"I just couldn't get over it. One of the ads says we had five A&P stores back in 1925. And we had two Kroger stores," Courtney said. "At Ricker's (on East Perry), I remember on Saturday mornings, people used to wait in line to get their meat cut."
Steinmetz said he remembered the meat would be wrapped in white paper and tied with string. He noted meat markets usually were located near the railroad tracks because the animals were delivered by train. The market workers slaughtered and butchered them at their shops. One display case holds a walking cane with a metal prod on the end. It was said to belong a local butcher who used it to direct cattle off the trains.
Steinmetz's connection to meat markets came through his wife, Dorothy, and her sister, Carol Distel. Their father owned Bazley's Meats in the store now occupied by Tiffin Sewing Machine.
Distel brought in a wooden tray her dad used to hold coins at Bazley's. She also had some tokens and stamps that probably were used for rationing during World War II.
Steinmetz said his father-in-law learned butchering skills in the basement of Saylor's Meat Market, next to the present-day Clover Club. He said the "ghost letters" from Saylor's are still visible on the window glass when the light is just right.
"They would actually lead cattle down a ramp back behind that store. They'd slaughter the cattle there, skin it, throw the hide up on a pile and throw salt on top of it," Steinmetz said. "All the blood went down the drain."
A "Tiffin Service Stores" poster from 1927 has pictures of all the shop owners in town. In the 1960s, owners belonged to the Tiffin Retail Dealers Association. Courtney said members of the group went together and put a large ad in the newspaper every week.
A large can that once held Gray and White frozen eggs also brought back memories for Virginia Fowler. She had worked in a school kitchen where that product went into students' lunches. The school received eggs frozen in half-gallon paper cartons with directions for measuring the right amount for recipes.
Fowler said the cartons needed to thaw for two days in the cooler.
"These were the eggs the government used to give the schools. They were blended - they were all yellow," she said. "We had to remember to take them out."
The museum has compiled a stack of calendars from stores in Tiffin and surrounding communities, such as Brown's General Grocery in Melmore, Pignard's in Bloomville and Gerhardstein's in St. Stephen's.
Floom Fleck artifacts also are on display. Floom Fleck was a grocery wholesaler, Steinmetz said. Records show the business started on Madison Street and operated on Harrison Street from 1920-70.
"They would take a truck and go to all these little stores and deliver," Steinmetz said.
Museum volunteer Whitey Distel once worked at Christ's Market (Schonhardt and Main street) and A&P. He said customers would call in the morning to place orders, and he would get them ready for pick-up that afternoon.
"Whitey told me the guy that ran the store went away and he had to run the store. But he wasn't old enough to sell beer, so he had to go across the street and get the neighbor lady to come over, so she could ring the beer up," Courtney said.
Soft drinks came in glass bottles and shoppers paid a deposit that was refunded when they returned the empty bottles to the store. Hoffert, who grew up in Crawford County, said she and other children always looked for discarded bottles to return for pennies that could purchase candy and gum.
Tiffin once had a Coke bottling plant on Benner Street.
In 1948, the company opened a new plant on West Market, east of the the former hospital. It closed in 1969. A former Coke employee brought in a Coke cooler and pictures from 1949-50 for the exhibit. Courtney said the pictures likely were from an annual dinner and party the company hosted for the shop owners and employees who sold Coke products.
Diane Wright Shafer, whose father owned Paul's Market, contributed a collection of photos of the store at its first location (now The Point) and on Prospect Street. She also has painted a number of Tiffin storefronts, including Paul's.
"Everybody I talk to always remembers these little grocery stores," Courtney said. "The oldest one still in existence is McCartan's. That's the last of the mom-and-pop stores."