Friday, June 04, 2010

“Thompson Center Market”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: A few months ago, I wrote a series of fictional columns about opening an old-fashioned, neighborhood food depot called ‘Tiny Finch.’ The store was to be located in Thompson, at the site of a long-deserted local market. These daydream adventures were loosely based on my own past experience as a retail manager in Geauga County. Amazingly, while I was busy imagining how the vacant business could be revived, someone was actually working to bring the store back into operation. Today, it is open for business and providing local patrons with a hometown shopping experience.

For many years, residents of Thompson have wished that someone would revive the empty grocery store on their town square.

This vacant plot of real estate has spawned local legends, and tempted curious visitors as a quiet remnant of bygone days.

Meanwhile, those who live in the area have grown accustomed to long drives for bread, dairy goods, and soft drinks. Acquiring such staple items has meant traveling several miles to Chardon, Madison, Rock Creek, or Hartsgrove.

But thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of local investors, that habit is changing for the better. Earlier this year, they re-opened the venerable Thompson Center Market, a consumer depot that was originally established in 1880.

As before, the business is one hundred percent American owned and operated.
Danielle Bashlor, an employee at TCM, observed that the reaction from local patrons was immediately positive.

“We are doing really well,” she said. “Everyone that comes in is happy. Now, they can get milk without driving so far. We get campers, too. A lot of people say they can’t believe that the store is open again.”

She also stated that they have received friendly inquiries from other businesses in the area like Thompson Raceway Park.

Some have visited the resurrected market for convenience items, like ketchup or peanut butter. But others paused to reflect on fond memories from yesteryear.

“One guy said he lived upstairs, over the store, as a boy,” Bashlor remembered. “Another said he worked here as a teenager.”

Long-time township resident Charlene Brown (not her real name) still remembers Thompson market during its heyday.

“Back then, the store was owned by Mr. Crandall,” she said. “In those days, you could get everything there. Food, overalls, or whatever. They even cut glass upstairs. There was a butcher who worked in the back, and gas pumps out front. And homemade donuts.”

Originally, Brown was employed by Paul Cook at his own shop, across the square.
“I like people,” she smiled. “So I’ve always worked in a store.”

When Cook acquired TCM, her expertise in the business helped make it even more successful.

“It was a very busy place,” she reflected. “In those days many families only had one car. They did all of their shopping at the store. We ran charge accounts for our customers, which helped a lot.”

Brown said the business was affiliated with IGA, the Independent Grocers Alliance, at that time.

“Sometimes, I would take the company truck to Garrettsville, to pick up our weekly specials,” she said. “And I would also use the vehicle to get fresh produce.”

The store even delivered groceries when needed, to customers in the area. It was an authentically ‘full service’ enterprise.

In those days, Thompson had become a ‘dry’ township. But Brown remembered that her employer managed to secure permission for beer sales at his market.

“Mr. Cook petitioned to get a carry-out license for the store,” she laughed. “I agreed to sell beer if we had it, but I wouldn’t help him get the permit!”

In modern terms, Brown said that seeing the place again brought back good memories.

“When I first walked in, it looked very familiar,” she explained. “They have a small medicine rack, cleaning supplies, and all sorts of things. It’s very clean and nice inside.”

She said her career at TCM ended in 1988.

With the summer season at hand, Danielle Bashlor said that they plan to diversify the selection of goods available by adding frozen food items. But getting the word out about this revived local business is a big priority.

“It’s a blind spot in Thompson,” she admitted. “The store has been closed for so long. People come in every day and say ‘I had no idea you were open!’ Locals who don’t often drive this way still think we’re closed. But word of mouth can help – five friends tell five friends, and it will spread.”

She said they plan to create a radio advertisement in the near future.

Thompson Center Market is open 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday – Saturday, and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

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