Thursday, August 23, 2007

Barney's Grocery

We recently ran a poll on the website asking people how the closing of the Pick ‘N Save grocery store on West Scott Street in Fond du Lac would affect them. One of those who saw the poll e-mailed and suggested that we should have included an option that the question was stupid. Fair enough, I’m one of those who will be impacted by the decision to close the store. That’s not the reason for the poll however. Quite a few people commented to me that they too will now have to shop elsewhere. Roundy’s closed the Copps Foods store a couple years ago and I enjoyed shopping there as well. A lot of people are anticipating the opening of Festival Foods.

When I was a teenager two of the first three jobs I had involved working at grocery stores in my hometown of Manistique, Michigan. One was at the A & P store, which had a line of stores across the country that has since closed. Their store brand was the Ann Page line of groceries. The other job was at a Mom and Pop store known as Barney’s Grocery.

Working at Barney’s is still one of my fondest memories. It was a small store on Oak Street a stone’s throw from a Catholic School and only a couple blocks down from an Elementary School. Barney Johnson was the proprietor. He was probably in his late 60s to early 70s when I worked a couple days a week for him stocking shelves.

Barney’s was a good old-fashioned neighborhood grocery store. For the kids it was where you could pick up penny candies, though by that time most candy bars and candies ran you more. He had all the latest candy. I remember going through a caramel candy bar phase. Remember the Marathon Bar? Of course Barney was no fool he carried a line of grocery products and beer and wine for adults.

Somewhere along the line Barney got his 15 minutes of fame. He was written up in the local weekly paper (The Pioneer Tribune) because he’d been offering penny candies for more than 40 years and served generations of children. Imagine the patience needed for those momentous decisions kids with a few pennies and dimes agonized over in his store?

Eventually time marched on and Barney passed away. Thankfully the store fell into the hands of Jim Sangraw, another nice guy, who for years was also connected with the local golf course as well. I went to school with one of his kids. He kept Barney’s name on the sign outside the store.

Sadly the store went the way of many Mom and Pop operations and is no longer doing business. We lived a block down from Barney’s and it was part of my tween and teen years. I asked about it a few years back and some one told me that the people who owned it were basically using it for storage. A sad end to a sweet story!

8/26/07-P.S. Since originally writing this blog. I've found out through relatives and the Pioneer Tribune that the old Barney's Grocery store has been remodeled and is now being used as the local headquarters for Habitat for Humanity.

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