VERSAILLES — Former employees and customers as well as family and friends showed up Sunday afternoon for the Brown Family Retirement party held at the Sweet Shop in Versailles.
The gang at the Sweet Shop celebrated the history of the Sweet Shop as well as bid a fond farewell and shared stories and memories with Larry Brown and his sister, Arlene Brown Keiser, children of the late Harry Brown, who started the business in 1939, with then-partner John Coffield.
Those in attendance also witnessed Brown and Keiser pass the torch on to the new ownership, Rod and Julie Boring and Steve and Greta Bergman.
The three-day event began Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and raffles and prizes for all and surprises for dining-in customers, the latter which continued into Saturday and Sunday, in addition to Sunday’s retirement party.
Raffles included such things as t-shirts, free cakes, cookies, rolls for the office, naming rights to one of the new rolls and even free coffee and rolls for a year.
Larry said the Sweet Shop, in the beginning, was a small bakery.
“I worked through junior high and high school before I went to college,” he said. “I then went to the American Institute of Foreign Trade and got a job in the international division in Hallmark Cards and worked there for eight years.”
When he came back to this area, Larry managed the Submarine House Bakery in Dayton for 19 years before coming back to help his father at the Sweet Shop.
“Dad was going to auction it off and I bought it the day before the auction,” he said.
Yes, Larry is retired but he plans to still be around, both at his homes in Versailles and in Dayton. He will even help out at the Sweet Shop if asked.
He’s pleased with the news owners.
“They’re energetic and enthusiastic,” he said. “They have made immediate changes. They changed the menu, bringing it up to date, and they have our recipes. My sister and I are very pleased with these people to approach the business like they have.”
He also went on to state that there is now all new flooring in the restaurant as well as a new proofer and stainless steel equipment.
“It’s roomier now,” he said. “It’s what I always wanted to do but never got around to it.”
A 1958 graduate of Versailles High School, the 76-year-old wants to spend time with his niece in New Mexico. He’s already been there twice and enjoyed it.
He said he won’t miss the early mornings that he came into the Sweet Shop to begin baking for the day.
“I came in at midnight and 1 a.m.,” he said.
“It’s a big relief to me,” said his sister, Arlene. “I’m retired from Family Health and the bakery now, and live in North Star, baby-sitting and enjoying life. “
The 1959 Versailles High School graduate is married to Harold Keiser, is the mother of Cindy and Kurt Kiser and a grandmother to four.
“Our son, Kurt, worked in the bakery after school and before he got married,” Arlene said.
She, too, is happy with the new ownership and showed off the t-shirt that she and many others were wearing during the reception. The front of the shirts featured the shop’s name and on the back was the new logo, “Just Roll With It.”
Among the many people popping by the Sweet Shop was Cecelia Graves, the longest living employee of the Sweet Shop.
“I starting working there in 1942 or 43,”Graves said. “Harry closed it for a year and a half in 1944 and I came back and worked part-time until 1949.”
“She was the first waitress,” someone said.
“Absolutely, it was fun,”Graves said. “Back then it was much different. It was the hangout for kids with pinball machines and a jukebox. My father-in-law, Chel Graves, furnished the games and jukebox.”
Back then, Larry added, the Sweet Shop opened at 5 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m. and was open seven days a week.
Suzie and Charlie Keihl, sitting at a booth in the eatery on Sunday, said they met at the Sweet Shop and have now been married 48 years.
“Four of the girls who worked here then, except for one are still married to the men they met here,” Charlie said. “They are Dixie Marshall, Joan Kremer and Jane Albritton.”
“Most of my family worked here,” added Suzie, who was a Grilliot. “About everybody in town has worked here before.”
Suzie’s sisters Pat Grilliot Baker and Teresa Grilliot Oswalt, the daughters of the late Omer and Mary Grilliot, were also in attendance.
“I worked off and on a year or some,” said Pat, who now lives in Greenville. “Mom took over for me when I got kidney problems. She died 23 years ago.”
Teresa and husband, the late Donovan Oswalt, said they owned the Sweet Shop from 1985 until almost 1990.
“I worked for Larry until 1998 on and off,” said Teresa, who brought with her an album full of photographs. “I decorated cakes for him.”
Donna Wagner said she worked at Sweet Shop when Brown and Coffield were co-owners.
“I have seen people I wouldn’t have known had I not worked here,” said Wagner, who worked as a waitress but preferred to work in the back with the rolls.
“I’ve been coning here for 50 years,” said Ed Collins, a retired businessman in Versailles. “It’s a good place. You can sit down and talk to the fellows. It’s so great they’ve done this all these years. I’ll still keep coming. I am so glad for the new bunch and the energy they have to do it.”
“My wife [Shirley Berger Cordonnier who died in 2014] worked here in the ’60s,” said Leroy Cordonnier. “She was the waitress, and we were dating when she worked here. She worked during Friday night football games by herself. It’s packed like it is now. When it came time to close, I had to mop the floor and I got a bowl of chili soup for doing it. She graduated in 1961 and we got married in 1962.”
Relatives of the Browns — Kay Sutton and Helen Hileman — as did Janet Pitsenbarger, grandmother to the new owners, stopped by for a visit as did so many others throughout the two-hour reception.
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