Editor's note: This is the fifth in a monthly series about neighborhood grocery stores.
One of the biggest perks of owning a corner store, Clarence Rudisill said, is the grandkids.
"What kid doesn't want to come into Grandma's candy store?" Rudisill asked from behind the candy-filled counter near the register.
Rudisill and his wife, Joyce, have run J & C Deli and Market in Hagerstown's West End since 1997. The neighborhood shop has earned the reputation as the place where neighborhood kids get candy and subs.
"I've been around this store since it's been open, since I was a kid," said Brittany Burnett, 26, who stopped in the shop on a Tuesday morning for a pack of Newports.
"We used to come down here and get cheese subs," she said.
Now she stops at the store three times a week, sometimes bringing her two sons, who are 4 and 5.
J & C Deli and Market is at the corner of Concord and Ross streets, serving the neighborhood that once held the Westview Homes public housing development. The Hagerstown Housing Authority demolished the apartments and replaced the building with 352 residences, now known as Gateway Crossing.
The $70-million redevelopment project all but paralyzed the Rudisills' business. Construction on the project began 2002, but it wasn't completed until several years later.
No homes, no customers.
The bustling community that kept the Rudisills' deli afloat was absent.
"This is my savings," Clarence Rudisill said, one arm leaning against the shop's deli counter and another pointing to the tiled floor.
Rudisill grew up in the West End. He bought the building in 1994 and opened the business in 1997, according to state tax records. Their home is down the street from the store. Rudisill said his wife can be cooking dinner in the kitchen of their home and watch him work from behind the register.
"This has always been a one-room store here," Rudisill said.
He and his wife decided to put efforts into running the business after injuries took them out of work. Clarence Rudisill, 61, had been a steel worker in Shippensburg, Pa. Joyce Rudisill, 62, had worked at a nursing home.
They had invested all of their earnings in the business — too much to pack up and shut down during the redevelopment project. "We were taking out loans just to stay afloat," Clarence Rudisill said.
Now, he said, the business is kept going by the young families and the kids who come by for candy and subs. The shop is the busiest in the afternoon and evening, when school gets out and when parents are coming home from work.
Joyce Rudisill decorates parts of the store with the baby pictures of neighborhood kids. She posts photos of her own kids, grandkids and great-grandkids on the wall near the cash register. Sometimes the grandkids come and "help out," Clarence Rudisill said.
"My backroom is full of their toys," he said.
The Rudisills are getting close to retirement age. Their hope is to turn the store over to their kids or grandkids, but so far no one has shown strong interest, Joyce Rudisill said.
If it doesn't stay in the family, Clarence Rudisill said he would like to sell the business, with hopes it would still operate as a corner store, continuing a tradition.
"There was someone here before we came," he said.