Dickie Cox and
his 95-year-old mother, Martha, run the Cox Variety
Store, a small business with a big inventory that has
survived long enough to take its place among the
favorite landmarks in Auburn.
AUBURN, KY, -
The scene could almost have been stolen from an old episode
of "The Andy Griffith Show."
II, was searching the toy section of Cox Variety Store early
this week, hoping to find a yo-yo string - but he found none
and knew of nowhere else in town to look.
"Make your own
string and save yourself a couple of bucks," advised the
store's 68-year-old proprietor, Dick Cox. "Just get you a
ball of twine and take some candle wax and rub on it, and
you've got yourself a yo-yo string." Cox fetched a small
spool of string and a candle from the shelf, showed the boy
how to apply the wax, then sent him on his way with the
string and candle in his pocket and a smile on his face.
customer was 71-year-old William York, who was waiting to
buy a Baby Ruth candy bar - just as he had done as a young
man of 23 when Dick Cox's parents, Richard Sr. and Martha,
opened the store.
"I used to eat
four or five bars a day. Now I'm down to one every once in a
while," York said, counting out 52 cents for the Baby Ruth.
Cox's father, who died in 1975, advertised 10,001 items when
he opened the store in 1951, and he probably had more. In
those days the store carried everything from washing
machines, stove pipe, paint, linoleum and toys to Hallmark
cards. And it still boasts a variety that ranges from hand
creams to costume jewelry, housewares, sewing supplies,
greeting cards and toys, to artificial flowers, giftware,
pots and pans and oil cloth that is still sold by the yard.
The little store
with the big inventory measures only 17 by 70 feet, but it
has survived long enough to take its place among the
favorite landmarks around Auburn.
Dick Cox and his
mother Martha - who is 95 and still comes to the store every
day - can remember times when three people were kept busy at
the candy counter selling candy and ice cream to
schoolchildren. But Auburn High School closed in the early
1980s. Then the new bypass was built around the town three
years ago, and trade is not as brisk as it used to be.
Even so, life
goes on at Cox Variety, where some of the townspeople still
pay their electric bills at the original counter and buy
candy our of the original candy case, or use the same old
light-bulb tester that Dick Cox's father installed when the
store opened. Cox and his mother still use the same knife
that Dick's father used to open cardboard boxes.
"We don't use
that cash register up front and the candy counter any more
because it will only register up to $2," Cox said.
Seventeen-year-old Jessie Pugh of Auburn stood in front of
the candy case this week remembering how she bought candy
there when she was small.
"I haven't been
in this store probably since I was 10 and used to come in
and get candy all the time with my little sister. It looks
exactly the same," she said. "I'm obsessed with Audrey
Hepburn and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' and this reminds me of
the scene where she goes into the five and dime store -
except I don't plan to try to steal anything."
The store is
usually open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday,
but Cox slipped on the ice and injured his back in January
an has been opening the store only from 2 to 5 p.m. in
"At one time we
had five clerks in this little store," he recalled. Loyal
customers have kept us open. We try to sell what people want
and need, instead of what some guy in New York tells us to