Bally corner grocery store closing Sunday after 101 years of operation
In the days before automobiles, one only had to walk a few blocks to buy everything they needed at the corner grocery store.
What was once vital to the growth of small communities is slowly becoming extinct at the hands of big-box stores, capable of buying power that small stores can’t compete with.
For more than 100 years a corner grocery store sat at the corner of Main and Seventh Streets in Bally, one of four such stores that once served the people of the area. Now, with its imminent closing, the shelves are getting bare.
From its origin as T.W. Minner’s store around 1910, to present day operators Denise and Mario (Cork) Sobjack, the establishment was not only a convenient place to purchase your groceries, but a gathering place for local residents.
The Sobjack’s have been running the store for nearly 30 years, taking over for Cork’s brother Michael after he operated it for five years. According to Denise, they wanted their own business so they could “Be with our kids and raise them.” Denise and Cork have three children, Andrea, Janelle and Drew, and all have spent time working in the store learning valuable lessons in business and life.
The small Berks County borough was once the home to Bally Case and Cooler, Great American Knitting Mills, Bally Block and Bally Ribbon Mills. Only the last two remain.
During the heyday of those companies, hundreds of workers would visit Sobjack’s Market each week to buy their lunch – usually one of their trademark hoagies.
According to Cork, there were times when they would make “Forty to fifty hoagies in a day.” They also made the lunch meat, lettuce, tomato and onion delicacies for several different “Hoagie Sale” benefits for several local non-profit groups. Another customer favorite was the fruit and snack baskets made up by the store.
When asked what she would miss most about running the market, Denise mentioned the children that visited the store. She said she would miss “Watching kids grow up. Many now are married and have children and grandchildren of their own.”
It wasn’t hard to see that Sobjack’s market was a people place. During a recent visit, this writer noticed several senior citizens, who lived nearby, purchasing items to last them a day or two where modern shoppers would drive to a big-box store and purchase enough to last them a week or two.
But it wasn’t just courtesy and friendliness that endeared the Sobjacks to their customers. There was also the occasional “Can I pay you on Friday” for items purchased today. Credit on a handshake is something that is rare today.
Sobjack's will be open their regular hours for today. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. At closing time on Sunday, the doors will close for good.