Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2001

Downtown storefront revived as tribute

December 27, 2001

Kathy Ross hopes her new downtown flea market will be as durable as the last business that occupied its home.

Kathy will open Grandma's Shop in downtown De Soto Jan. 11. The name, she said, is a homage to her husband's grandmother, Edna Ross.

For more than 40 years, Edna ran her downtown plumbing and electrical supply out of the storefront. The store that faced out on Main until the thoroughfare was renamed to 83rd Street , was built by Edna's husband, Floyd, in 1948.

"They opened the business in another location in 1937," Kathy said. "When we were remodeling, we found notes Floyd left when it built the store. It was right after the war, and building materials were hard to come by. He used whatever he could find.

"Floyd was like my son, Brad, who is just like my husband. He could do anything."

Proof of that is a back room service elevator Floyd built from scrap parts. Floyd didn't get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

"He died in 1948," Ross said. "Edna ran the shop. She sold all by herself herself. In the 1940s, she had a hard time convincing people she knew anything about plumbing and electricity. But once she found the parts, they were convinced."

Convinced enough that Edna and Ross Electrical and Plumbing would become a Main Street fixture for nearly half a century. It was the home away from home for Michael and his seven brothers and sisters.

"When the kids talked about going uptown, it was to grandma's shop," she said of her husband's family. "When we were cleaning up, we found her Chamber of Commerce card issued in 1950. It says on it she was a charter member from 1949."

Edna kept running the shop long after normal retirement age. Kathy said she continued to come to the store every business day until her failing health forced her to close the business in 1993. De Soto's entrepreneurial matriarch died in 1998.

The unsold inventory of Edna's business was dimly visible through the store's windows for seven years after the store's closing. Things began to change when Kathy and Michael acquired the building from his parents last year.

When the couple started thinking about putting the building to use, they found it in a general state of disrepair. The worst damage was done by termites that wrecked havoc on the floorboards and joists that supported them, Kathy said.

The required renovation explains why a sign proclaiming the coming of Grandma's Shop has occupied the building's front window since last summer, Kathy said. With their busy lives, they didn't get things done as quickly as hoped.

Walls are now freshly painted and Brad has replace termite-ravage flooring. All is ready for a January opening, Kathy said.

"I love a home for the crafts, but I don't think a pure crafts store would make it," she said. "That's why I come up with a flea market. This is not a garage sale thing. I'm really excited about the quality of the items we will have here."

The shop will feature Kathy's craft items and collectibles and those of seven other venders. Among those displaying at the shop will be Lawrence Allen, Candace Asbell and Jani Christenberry of De Soto, Jim Woods of Lawrence and Leland and Jane Massey of Eudora. In addition, Kathy said she will sale items on consignment.

While the first story will be home to her business, Kathy said, Michael is renovating the basement to house his collection of antique gasoline engines.

"That's his retirement," she said. "This is my retirement."

The wares will be far different from those Edna sold, but close observation reveals many of the display shelves from her days remain, including one that reads "Brachs pure candies exclusively."

Kathy said she has ideas about how to attract people downtown.

"I'd like to see Main Street come back," she said. "Grandma would like to see that. She would be so proud the store is in use again."

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