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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Johnston's Jottings: Remembering old cafe, 'mom and pop' shops

  • In the earlier days of Leavenworth, there were a lot of "mom and pop" grocery stores on several corners around town.
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  • In the earlier days of Leavenworth, there were a lot of "mom and pop" grocery stores on several corners around town. One of these was a half block from my home. The owners were Mr. and Mrs. John Giese. I was really rich when I had a penny for candy.
    The Giese family had several children, including Don and Helen Marie. Helen was close to my age, and so we were friends. She took me with her one time to the Old Cathedral school which she attended. I also went to Mass there on occasion. Other neighbors invited me to their churches as well, but even though I married a Catholic, I have remained at First United Methodist to this day.
    John Giese became a policeman later on, and told me about Mann's Cafe' which was across the street from the police department. The police department then, was in the north end of city hall, and Mann's was just west, across 5th Street. The police department had a small dog who would carry an envelope of money with an order for food, over to the cafe', and wait until the order was filled, then carry the sack back to the policemen who were waiting for it. I would guess that the dog was rewarded with some of the goodies.
    It seemed there were a lot of small businesses around Leavenworth, zoning just wasn't so important then. One of these cafe's was "Charly's Place" in Bain City.
    It was in the backyard of their home, sheltered from the torrid temperatures of Leavenworth summers by a beautiful American elm tree. The cafe' was hardly big enough to turn around in, no more than eight by 10 feet. It had one tiny table with two small chairs overlooking the only window in the building. A person could almost reach out from the table and touch the five-foot counter that was outfitted with two stools, and that was the extent of the accommodations – seating for four people at a time.
    A small gate and railing kept customers from wandering into the kitchen area, which was crowded with a refrigerator and two-burner kerosene stove. A small cabinet in a back was storage for three or four glasses. a like number of plates and a few coffee cups.
    When someone ordered soup it didn't create a service problem. Charley didn't keep so much as a single can of soup on the kitchen shelf. As soon as he heard that a customer ordered soup he literally jumped out the back door and headed for Boode's store to purchase a can of soup.
    Years later, when reflecting on this unique business enterprise, a person might wonder why he bought only one can of soup at a time. Perhaps it was simply supply and demand.
    Page 2 of 2 - Mr. Huff was asked if they ever made any money – and it was surprising to learn that it generated about a dollar-and-a-half a day in receipts. There were men who were working full time jobs and were struggling to earn that much in a day's wages.
    Annie Johnston is a Leavenworth resident and wife of the late J.H. Johnston III, former Times publisher.

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