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End of an era; Cox's Variety Store closes its door

                                                                                                                                                   by Pam Cassady

COX Variety Store
Cox Variety Store - by F. Marie Foley
Cox Inventory - Byron Crawford
Death of Dickie Cox 10-14-2007
Cox - End of an Era - Pam Cassady





























October 19, 2007 - News-Democrat & Leader

Cox's Variety Store closes its door

To enter Cox's Variety Store in Auburn is to step back into a different era. From the creaky hardwood floors to the candy display near the door, the store is much the same as it was when it opened over 50 years ago.

Shoppers at Cox's knew what to expect. They knew they would find a wide variety of quality merchandise. They knew they would find everything from a wedding gift to a spool of thread. And they knew that if they couldn't find something, store owner and operator Dick Cox would be more than happy to help them out.

After decades of being a friend, neighbor and businessman in Auburn, Cox died Sunday after a lengthy illness. He was 77 years old. His death is the end of an era and will leave a void in the community that will be hard to fill.

“It's a terrible loss to the community,” said Wayne Dinsmore, owner of The Lion and The Lamb Antiques, just down from Cox's store. “Not only because of the store but also because of the friendships.”

Cox's Variety Store opened in 1951 when Cox's parents, Richard and Martha Cox, moved to Auburn. Cox, who graduated from Centre College in Danville and served two years in the Army began working in the store in 1967 and took over as owner and operator in 1975 when his father passed away. His mother worked there with him until she died in the late 1990s.

In the days before the Hwy. 68/80 Bypass and giant-sized shopping centers, Cox's Variety Store was the place to shop for Auburn residents and many others.

In an article in the Dec. 7, 1995 N-D&L, Auburn resident Marie Foley recalled going to Cox's as a child at Christmas time and looking at all the toys and gifts. The store was always kid-friendly, she said.

In an interview in 1996, Cox said he never regretted his decision to stay in the family business and he enjoyed his work. He did, however, say that he missed the early days when the store would be full of people shopping. He recalled children peering into all the candy jars and figuring out how to get the most out of their dime.

Despite a decline in customers over the years, Cox had vowed to keep the store open until he had no customers. In more recent years, the store had received some publicity and was sometimes visited by tourists because it is one of the few old-fashioned variety stores still operating in the United States.

When customers entered the store, they were often amazed at the many, many items Cox had for sale.

“Anything that you wanted, he had it there,” said Auburn resident Eloise Hadden. “And what he didn't have, he'd help you get it.”

Hadden lived near Cox and said he was a wonderful neighbor and friend.

“He was very thoughtful and kind,” she said.

Hadden said Cox helped her a lot when she was working to get the Auburn Museum started. “He had a wonderful knowledge of Auburn,” she said.

Auburn Mayor Dewey Roche said Cox was businessman and a friend of his and he will be missed. “He was real active in the community,” he added.

Although Cox's Variety Store will never be the same without Cox behind the counter and roaming the aisles, Roche said he would love to see the business stay open, but no one knows for sure what will happen with the store.

For now, at least, the doors of the variety store that has been a part of Auburn for many years will be closed and shoppers will have to settle for memories of days past.

In her column reminiscing about Cox's, Foley summed up her feelings about the store.

“In all my travels, over these many years, in the U.S. and abroad,” Foley wrote, “never have I found the quiet dignity and welcome that envelopes you when you open the door and the bell jingles at Cox's Variety Store.”

Richard Sr. & Martha Cox operated store from 1951
Richard Sr. died in 1975
Richard Jr. 'Dickie' Cox took over the business [1975]
Martha Cox died in the late 1990s
Richard Jr. Cox died on October 14, 2007  
All are buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Mount Vernon, KY

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