HAGERSTOWN — A steady stream of morning customers flowed in and out of the Spickler's Market, picking up everyday items — everything from pop and cigarettes to produce and household items.
Sandwiches and cold cuts are sold at the deli counter in the back of the store.
The cashier is at the front. Melissa Shives, a new cashier, works the 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift. She said it gets the busiest between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., the lunch rush, she said.
"Yeah, we've got our regulars," she said between transactions on a recent Friday morning.
Richard Fawley, 63, of Hagerstown, is one of them. He said he spends hours each day at the shop.
"It's closer than going to those big grocery stores," Fawley said as he swirled his daily cup of coffee in his hand, part of his morning ritual.
Paul Spickler is the third generation of Spickler men to run the family business, Spickler's Market on Franklin Street in downtown Hagerstown. But with the way the economy has been, he wonders whether there will be a fourth.
"If it weren't for the food stamps, I don't think I could survive down here," Spickler said, from behind the market's deli counter.
This is what has become of the family business that Spickler inherited from his father, Robert Spickler, who in keeping with family tradition, inherited the business from his dad, who was also named Paul Spickler.
"Everything I own is from this little store," said Spickler, 45, of Maugansville.
"The third generation stops here," he said, that is unless his brother, Robert Spickler, takes over the store.
Spickler said he was thankful for every customer, most of whom are walk-ins. Many of them, he said, don't have a lot of money to spend in the first place.
"It's a low-income area, so you've got to do what you've got to do to keep your prices down," Spickler said.
Last fiscal year, 7,344 Washington County households received food assistance, according to David Engle, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.
As of Nov. 1, that number had reached 8,955, Engle said.
"The case load has doubled in the past three years," Engle said. "It's definitely the economy and the high unemployment rate."
On average, Marylanders on food assistance receive $130 a month, around $4.35 a day, according to information from the state Department of Human Resources.
But these days, Spickler finds himself doing what his customers do — comparison shopping. Though in this case, he's comparing prices offered by grocery suppliers. He said big box stores have been siphoning away his customers for years.
"My dad always told me, you've got to make your money from buying," he said. "Watch how you buy your stuff so you can sell it a good price."
Spickler's Market has been at its present location near City Hall for 40 years. It began when his grandfather opened up a deli on Antietam Street. In 1947, Spickler's father, Robert, opened a grocery store on the corner of Antietam and Mulberry streets and eventually opened an additional shop on Potomac Street.
"I remember when I was 5 years old, we lived above the store out on the South End," Paul Spickler said. "I used to put on an apron and sweep up the floors. (My dad) would give me $5 and I'd go down the street and buy Matchbox cars from the hardware store."
By the time Paul Spickler was 11, his dad was operating a single grocery at its current location on Franklin Street. Robert died in 2007, at the age of 80.
Spickler said his father came to work every day — even after he retired — up until the three days before his death.
"That's all he's ever done — it's all I've ever done," Spickler said. "I'm 45 and I'm still doing it."
Spickler's Market | 21 E. Franklin St., downtown Hagerstown
Hours | 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to noon Sunday
Contact | 301-991-6512