Last Friday I read with interest an article in the NWI Times about a local icon in transition. “Jewel-Osco to be sold to investment group” was the headline. Oh, darn! was my sarcastic reaction.
I was 7 or 8 when Jewel opened within a block of my family’s sundries store in Whiting, Indiana. And as I recall, it wasn’t too long before our store closed. I suppose it would have happened eventually – Lord knows I probably ate a good share of the profits – but I blame the big box grocer for closing our sweet shop.
Sandrick Sundries, 194? – 1963 – was a Whiting icon in its time. Located on the main thoroughfare between Chicago’s east side and East Chicago, Indiana, my dad’s store served up so many sundries – from aspirin to toy trucks, sundaes to garbarge-can Cokes, bowling shirts to baseball bats, cameras to snuff. You name it, we had it. Even stamps, milk and hot roasted nuts. Penny candy? The Sputniks are good or would you like Mary Janes? Three Musketeers? Sure – frozen or not? Stewarts hot sandwiches? The cheeseburgers were good with a chocolate shake.
My brother began working the soda fountain when he turned 12. Can you imagine having your 12-year-old behind the counter today? But Jewel Tea trashed my dream of being a girl soda jerk. It’s okay, the girl and jerk parts stuck. (Hope that mad you laugh. I know my brother’s laughing now.) No career behind the counter, inspite of my apprenticeship – in the basement.
While the store took up every nook and cranny of the street-level soda shop cum camera-bowling-greeting card-and Nehi soda emporium, which literally and figuratively supported our upstairs apartment, the basement consumed many of our pre-jerk apprenticeship hours. There were empty pop bottles to rack, syrupy straws and napkins to sweep into piles and cake-cone boxes to break down before torching. It was work, but we were rewarded with Ice Cream Mondays.
I guess I’m glad Jewel will be sold – maybe to keep its name under new ownership, or be turned into some big-name super food seller. Not that I have anything against it. In fact, I’ve shopped there many times over the years – even when it was right down the street. But that recent headline reminded me of the first Jewel Tea coming to Robertsdale circa 1960, and about our sweet little sundries store. There are so-o-o many stories to tell.