2013-08-29 / Front Page

Ritz Bros. Store Recalled

Story of well-loved store told in book
By Lindsay R. Mellott

Buck Valley brothers Ralph, left, and Ambrose Ritz are pictured in the early 1930s with their produce truck. Buck Valley brothers Ralph, left, and Ambrose Ritz are pictured in the early 1930s with their produce truck. Not so many years ago, before the onslaught of specialized retailers, big-box stores and Internet shopping, general stores dotted the landscape here and in rural areas all over the country. These small stores carried a broad line of merchandise, including staple items such as bread and milk and household goods such as hardware and electrical supplies. They also served as a gathering place for the surrounding community, a place where information and stories were shared, news of the day passed along and the company of friends and neighbors enjoyed.

Although a few of these stores still exist most are gone, a memory now to those of a certain age who patronized them when country general stores were the place to go for just about everything.

Memories of one such store, Ritz Brothers, in southern Fulton County, have been compiled in a self-published book “A Store of Memories” written by Sherri Ritz Reinwald, daughter of Ralph Ritz, who with his older brother, Ambrose, opened Ritz Brothers Store in Buck Valley nearly 70 years ago in 1936.

In operation until 2005, the store’s beginnings in the 1930s to 1975 when her father retired are the focus of Reinwald’s 123-page book. The store’s remaining 30 years of operation, under the management of the author’s cousins Kenny and Dave Hixon, are summarized.

Reinwald writes that Ralph and Ambrose struggled to make a living through the Depression years. They worked their father Calvin’s farm, moving at one point to New York state, where they found work in a silk mill. Moving back to Buck Valley, they worked on the road when they could get hired and eventually started peddling fruits and vegetables they bought in Baltimore from the back of a truck.

Seeing a growing need, the brothers began to sell gas and other goods at their father’s home. Then, in 1936, they built Ritz Brothers Store just up the road from the Ritz home place and soon after took on third partner Clive Hixon, who was married to the brothers’ sister, Lily, and oversaw the farming end of the business

“A Store of Memories” also includes, in addition to the store’s history, chapters that recall a variety of Reinwald’s store-related experiences, including, among others, Picking Watermelons, Chicken Dressin’ Day, Fifties Junk Food, Inventory Time, Glass Wax and Treats – Christmastime at the Store and After-Church Sessions.

A number of friends and family members have supplemented Reinwald’s memories with their own, and they too are included in the book, along with numerous black and white as well as color photographs.

Reinwald grew up in Buck Valley and is a retired high school English teacher and guidance counselor. She is the youngest of eight Ritz family cousins who all lived close to one another near the store where they spent countless hours. Although she never worked on a regular basis, Reinwald did help around the store, waiting on customers, stocking the shelves and helping with inventory. “I loved helping, sitting on the porch summer evenings, sampling all the goodies, interacting with so many people,” Reinwald said. “In general the store was like another character in our lives – the center of everything.”

Over the years the store has always been a topic of discussion at family reunions and get-togethers. The family’s memories of Ritz Brothers are so indelible Reinwald decided that after her retirement she would write about the history of the store and the legacy her parents, uncles and aunts left for the next generations.

As she wrote the book, Reinwald said, “their enterprising spirit, keen work ethic and strong values of honesty and dedication to their customers and the community became clearer and clearer to me.”

Copies of “A Store of Memories” are available for $14.50 each, which includes shipping and handling, at storememories@gmail.com.

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