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Inventory at Cox Variety includes cherished memories

                                                                                         by Byron Crawford

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






























This article was written by Byron Crawford whose column appears on the Kentucky page Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  The Courier Journal

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."

Michael Bobbett, 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.

The next 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 recent weeks.

"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 sell."


NEXT:- Death of Dickie Cox 10-14-2007




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