Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 20, 2020, Pg. 9
A very Merry Christmas to my readers of this column. Albion used to have a slew of neighborhood grocery stores scattered all over town. This was before the "Supermarkets" came to Albion in 1954 which spelled the death knell over the next several years for the small groceries. One such neighborhood grocery store was the South Eaton Street Market at 803 S. Eaton St. It was originally Drury’s Grocery, opened in the mid-1920s by Bert (1867-1939) and Emma (1878-1951) Drury, who lived at 215 W. Oak St. behind the store. Mrs. Drury continued to operate the store after her husband’s death before selling it in 1947. Mrs. Drury lived in retirement in a small house she had built on the south side of the property at 807 S. Eaton St.
The store was purchased by sisters Jennie Stong (1894-1982) and Helen Drews (1890-1983) in 1947, and renamed the South Eaton Street Grocery. Jennie had come to Albion in 1934 and also worked at the Marshall Label & Tag Co., as did Helen who came to Albion in 1936. The sisters lived in the house where the Drurys had formerly lived.
In 1953 Jennie sold the business to her nephew Earl Drews and his wife Helen who moved into the Oak St. house, while the sisters purchased and moved into the late Mrs. Drurys small retirement house where they spent their retirement years. The two previous-owner sisters however continued to help as clerks at the store. Earl had previously been employed at Avery Cleaners in Albion. In a short history of the grocery store written by Helen (wife of Earl) Drews, she wrote "I would only work when needed and would come out of the house with the small children, Nancy and Chris, leaving them to play in the back. Our first years in business were good. We were happy and busy. We purchased a large walk-in cooler and a meat counter for fresh meat, a large freezer for all of the frozen products becoming available. All of the big super markets came to Albion in 1954. We were unable to keep our prices competitive with them. Our business was slow and was no longer profitable and we had to close the store." By the way, those three supermarkets opening in late 1954 were: IGA, Felpausch, and A & P.
Following the closing of the store in 1958, Earl began selling water softeners for Velvet Soft. In August 1961, the family moved from Albion to Liberty, Missouri. The family eventually settled in Indianapolis, Indiana, with retirement in Zephyrhills, Florida. The grocery store building was purchased and moved to just north of Homer along the west side of 25 ˝ Mile Road, north of the bridge over the Kalamazoo River before you enter Homer. The building was supposed to be turned into something, but it wasn’t. Instead, it sat there for many years, deteriorating, until it was finally demolished.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo of Earl Drews in front of the new meat counter at the store, and another photo with sisters Jennie and Helen. How many of our readers remember Earl Drews, Jennie and Helen, and the South Eaton St. Grocery? Special thanks to Nancy (Drews) Bacon for this week’s information.
Jennie Strong and Helen Drews
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic