Wallaceton man closing store after 52 years|
Saturday, September 29, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
WALLACETON - The aroma of food cooking drifted through the air in Wallaceton earlier this week. The smell got stronger if you opened the door to Hummel's Grocery Store, but the shelves inside are nearly bare.
The shelves are so empty because, today, at the close of business, Harold D. "Zeke" Hummel will lock the doors for the final time.
It was 52 years ago that he bought the business, which has been in existence since 1918.
Hummel said Charles Wolfe built the store in 1918 and he ran it until 1948 when Wilber Smeal bought it and ran it until 1953 when he closed the store and ran a television repair shop until 1960.
Hummel bought the business in 1960 and he has been there ever since, until today.
Best known as "Zeke," he said people in town don't really know his real name. He said his brother started to call him that when he was younger and it just stuck.
For 45 years, the Wallaceton born and raised man has been in the business with his loyal companion and wife, Judy, by his side keeping the place going seven days a week. Sadly, Judy passed away in April just one week after being diagnosed with cancer.
"I was going to close the store 10 years ago," he said. "But Judy talked me out of it."
He said he has only missed one day at the store and that was because he just didn't feel good that day. He said he has taken a few vacations here and there, but he would try to get someone to run the store for him.
He would put in 80 hours a week at the store, for 47 years, making food for the customers or selling them whatever groceries and goods they may need.
He would be at the store from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day for a while, then when he was 27 years old, he and Judy got married and he only worked from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Then he would reopen from 7-10 p.m., but again it was seven days a week. A few years ago he cut way back and closed on Sundays.
"I've had a good time," he said. "I've never had a morning I didn't enjoy."
He said the 1960s, 70s, and 80s were his best years.
He said in the 60s and 70s, he and his wife made between 1,000 and 1,200 sandwiches a week, during the summer.
The store has seen its share of changes under Hummel's ownership. He had a pinball machine and jukebox and "it seemed like a thousand kids," he said.
At one time he had a lunch counter in the back of the store.
"After 20 years the older fellas started to die off, so I took it out," he said.
He said he does enough business to pay his overhead but that's about it.
So, why is he closing if he enjoys it so much?
"I can't keep up with the house," he said. "And I want to quit while I still have some of my health left."
He said he is a Civil War buff and he wants to do some traveling, perhaps to Gettysburg and Virginia and West Virginia and some other places, and he wants to spend some time at home.
"I haven't been there a whole lot," he said.
Customers who were in and out of the store said they are going to miss him and the store.
"You won't find a nicer person around here than Zeke," said Don Bordas, Wallaceton resident. "He'll really be missed. I've known him for years and you just won't find anyone nicer, that's for sure."
Hummel said he was in the Air Force but not for very long. He also said he worked as a surveyor for underground coal mines before he bought the store.
He likes to cook as well, and he said in the early 50s there was a small restaurant in Wallaceton and he would cook there in the evening when he was done working.
Hummel's Grocery Store was probably the last remaining place where people could go in and get some items they needed and if they couldn't pay for at the time, Hummel would just tell them, "Take it and pay me when you get the money."
He would write it up and put the paper with the rest he gave credit.
"Saturday is going to be a sad day," Hummel said.