Times Are Still Changing

April 27, 2017

Change continues in Marion, Michigan, and that is a good thing. This week we’re taking a look back just five short years when we found these things happening Along the Beaten Path. 

Change is inevitable. It is often controversial and subject to resistance, it being human nature to oppose change. Change usually comes slowly to our little town, overtaking us gradually, like the seasons fading one to another.  But sometimes change happens with little warning and we tend to dig in our heels. We are, after all, creatures of habit. One thing is certain; change in any form, is always an attention getter.

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Julie Traynor
Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Several years ago the bank had three different names within the space of a year. By the time the third change was rumored, folks were getting a bit leery. (It has since changed again when what began over 100 years ago as the Marion Bank became a Huntington Bank this spring.)  There was a real turmoil when the Post Office burned on Valentine’s Day, 1994, and its location was up in the air for a while. Local drivers were equally skeptical when MDOT installed the traffic light. Most were convinced that it wasn’t the thing for us. Seems they were right on this one. Now, word has been out there for a while, change is coming to our grocery store.

Grocery shopping in our little town has as long and varied a history as the Village itself. Christopher and Mary Clark were the first settlers and business owners and as such, sold supplies to other settlers. By 1884 the Clarks were selling supplies, dry goods and food stuffs, to the fast growing town.  By 1889 when the village was formally organized it boasted several businesses selling groceries and meats.

One of the earliest and most recognizable buildings in Marion was the Piper & Lowry building, located next to the Post Office on the northwest corner of Mill and Main. The two story brick, constructed in 1905 after the Great Fire, consisted of two store fronts below and a meeting hall and offices above. The upstairs meeting hall boasted large arched windows. The Lowry Brothers, later joined by the Game Brothers Meat Market, sold groceries in that location from 1900 until 1943 when they sold the business and building to Bernie and Lola Schumacher, who renamed it the Marion Food Market and later Bernie’s IGA Foodliner. This is where Hit Flix did business. (It is now part of Artesian Springs Medical.) 

Another longstanding grocery in Marion was located next to the former Ben Franklin. This building was known as the Blevins Block and was home to the Clover Farm Store, operated by Lee Duddles. He sold to Oscar Johnson who operated Johnson’s Grocery until the early 1960’s. The building became part of the Ben Franklin and is now home to a fitness center.

In the business block east of Mill Street, groceries were dispensed for many years by Frank and Emma White and partner and son-in-law, Dudley Helfrich, at White’s Grocery. In the early 1950’s the White’s sold to Ellis and Naomi Borders who operated the grocery until the early 1970’s when they sold to Max and Judy Kibby. Ultimately, it was the Kibbys who made the decision to expand their business and moved the M&J Grocery to the present location on South Mill location. The Kibbys sold the business to Ashcraft’s of Harrison who in turn sold to the Spartan Corporation, owners of the Glen’s chain. ValuLand is a subsidiary of Spartan Foods.

By the time you read this we will all have survived the transformation from Glen’s to ValuLand and will have had the opportunity to see it for ourselves. The latest innovation in grocery shopping in Marion is the future. Change really is good. Above all we must be thankful that, in these uncertain and changing times, we still have a grocery in our town.
On a personal note, the late Bernie and Lola Schumacher were my uncle and aunt and I grew up in their grocery business in Marion. Indeed, when I was born my parents were living in one of the two apartments above the business. Some of my earliest memories are of pickled bologna and cottage cheese and running up and down the aisles. We moved to Blevins Street when I learned to slide down the stairs and into the store.

The Schumacher’s bought the Lowry store in 1943, changed the business to a self-serve grocery in 1947 and doubled its size in 1956 when a vehicle crashed into the front of the building, forcing major structural changes. The upper story was removed and the two separate businesses were made into one large sales area. Self-service fresh produce, dairy, and meat coolers were installed. An entire aisle of frozen food freezers came along just in time for TV dinners and frozen vegetables.  The automatically opening exit door was the first of its kind in our town. Huge change came to our town the day that Bernie’s IGA Foodliner was born.

The grocery stores, along with the gas stations and restaurants in our town, were a source of employment for generations of high school students. There was always a need for stockers and carry-out boys. There are still a lot of MHS grads, both here and in the world beyond our town, who can list Bernie’s as their first job. It was mine. My aunt was always proud of the successes of her employees.

Marion State Bank, Marion, Mi.

Marion State Bank, Marion, Mi.

One of ‘her boys’ is back in town this month, giving lessons at his new business, Artist on Duty. Ted Parkhurst worked at Bernie’s in the early 1960’s when he was in high school. Ted filled the stocker/carry-out bill most genially and used his basic art skills weekly to print window and shelf signs.            

Ted graduated with the MHS class of 1966 and headed off to Harding College in Arkansas and ultimately to a life beyond Marion. Ted has been, and remains, very active in the publishing world. He studied for four years at the Arkansas Arts Center Museum School. His paintings and drawings are displayed in 17 states and Canada, mostly in private and corporate collections. His business in Marion satisfies a long time dream and combines his two great loves, books and art. He is offering beginning and intermediate instruction through the month of February. Painting will be acrylic paint on canvas and drawing will be pencil, pastel and charcoal.Artist on Duty welcomes visitors, art and book lovers anytime and is located at 110 West Main in Marion.

Perhaps the biggest changes have come for Ted Parkhurst, who in these five years since this first appeared in the Marion Journal, has wed the lovely Linda, also a very talented artist, and together they are Parkhurst Bros. Publishers, book publishers based in Marion.

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