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Corsi's Grocery stores memories

November 05, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

A determination to marry combined with a promise made - and kept - to a pastor is the reason Corsi's Grocery has not been open on Sundays for more than 37 years.

The small corner grocery store and sub shop at the intersection of West Washington Street and Madison Avenue in Hagerstown has been owned by the Corsi family for 60 years.

The shop is now owned by Frank Corsi Jr. and his wife, Sandy.

They met when she worked there years ago.

"She was 16. She worked for me as a soda fountain girl. They say love at first sight," Corsi said.

"I don't know about all that," Sandy Corsi quickly retorted.

After finding out about the romance, Sandy's mother made her quit working at the shop and for its owner, who was older than she was.

But they kept seeing one another secretly and writing letters back and forth.

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They vowed to get married when Sandy turned 18 and decided they wanted to be married on June 30, 1969.

The only problem was that Corsi's priest said they had to wait eight weeks.

Unwilling to wait, the couple approached a pastor, who also initially refused to marry them.

Corsi pointed out to that pastor that children were hanging out in his store on Sunday mornings instead of attending Sunday school.

"I said 'If you will marry us, I'll close that store on Sunday,'" Corsi said.

They were married on a Monday - June 30, 1969 - and the store has been closed every Sunday since, Corsi said.

Instilling a work ethic

Corsi's father took over the corner grocery in October 1946. His stepmother, whom Corsi refers to as his mother - his birth mother died when he was 6 years old - made the decision to add a soda fountain to the business, which also served as a restaurant at one time.

Today the soda dispensed from a Coca-Cola machine on the counter is the original soda formula - meaning anyone who hands over 50 cents for a cup of it will find it tastes the same as a Coke did 40 years ago, Corsi said.

"There's a lot of difference. It's a Coke. You taste that other stuff and it's like water," Corsi, 73, said.

Corsi said that when he was younger his father "kept me going all the time." As an example, he said he remembers pulling a wagon in the Pangborn Boulevard area, selling oranges and tangerines.

"If I'd sell them all he'd give me a quarter for my movies. Back in those days it was 11 cents for a movie. He made me work for it," Corsi said.

Corsi worked in the shop before and after school as a teenager before he went into the military for three years, starting in 1951. He took over the business in 1957 and bought the building that houses it in 1962.

Along with groceries, basic household goods and subs, the shop sells hand-dipped Hershey's ice cream and milkshakes. It also is known for its grated cheese.

Customer: 'Lost without this'

Nelson Hartman Sr. stopped by the shop on a recent afternoon for a sandwich and a soda.

He said he is a frequent customer, evident in the quick barbs he traded with Corsi.

"I'd be lost without this," Hartman said of the shop. "There's not many of them around any more. You hate to see it happen."

Not only are such businesses dying, but so are the older people who used to frequent them, Hartman said.

"That counter used to be full every morning. And they're all gone now," he said of the older customers.

Corsi and his wife have two children, Melissa Miller, 36, and Frank Corsi III, 33, as well as five grandchildren.

Corsi said he hopes one of his family members will someday take over the store, which now is run primarily by him and his wife. They do not have any employees.

"I don't think I'd ever want to change it myself. I don't think I'd ever think about selling it," Frank Corsi said.

One of those grandchildren, Greg, 11, came to the store after school recently and helped himself to a bag of potato chips.

"What would he do if I was closed up?" Corsi asked.

Corsi's is open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed Sundays.

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