Let’s all go down to Tiedtke’s, the legendary Toledo department store.
Oh, that’s right. The only road to Tiedtke's anymore is Memory Lane.
Those who remember shopping at Tiedtke’s think of it with wide-eyed fondness and broad smiles. The anticipation. The aromas. The sensation of being transported away from everyday chores and entering a world of food and fun.
Co-founder Charles Tiedtke used to say that the store looked “just like a circus.” Jugglers would toss oranges while organ music played. For children, especially, it was a giddy and gleeful experience.
There were so many things to see and smell and taste. Freshly roasted coffee and an array of groceries greeted customers on the first floor. Fragrant spices, handmade baked goods, luscious chocolates, hot popcorn, exotic buffalo meat, roasted peanuts being ground into peanut butter ... all this, and much more, enticed shoppers.
It was an event to visit the store — people would dress up for the occasion.
For many years, at Christmas, Tiedtke’s would purchase and display a mammoth cheese weighing as much as 2 tons. Old photos show attractive young women perched on top of the behemoths before the cheese was then sliced and sold to customers, selling out within just a few days.
On Nov. 15, The Andersons and The Blade plan to rekindle the Christmas tradition beloved by so many in this city: the ceremonial slicing of a 3,200-pound mammoth round of cheddar cheese for the holiday season.
As The Blade wrote in an article on Dec. 7, 1994, this “may have been the single biggest collective memory of all” for those who would stand in line to see, and purchase a portion of, the enormous Tiedtke’s Christmas cheese.
We all know that you can't go back and recapture that time. Tiedtke’s has not only closed, but its building, which used to stand on Summit Street, burned down in 1975 in the midst of demolition.
But that doesn’t mean that some of the memories can't be revived.
This year’s nostalgic nod to Tiedtke’s will take place at The Andersons’ Toledo store at Talmadge Road and Monroe Street, and the public is invited to attend and to share in the excitement.
The barrel-shaped cheddar is being made to special order by Henning’s Cheese of Kiel, Wis., the last factory in the country still making such gigantic wheels. Production of the cheese began on Friday, requiring about 33,000 pounds of milk to begin the process. It will be a mild cheddar, aged for three months, by the time it arrives at The Andersons.
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John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade, fondly remembers Tiedtke’s from his childhood and wanted to create a new Toledo tradition while honoring the old one. He was instrumental in coordinating with The Andersons to plan this celebratory event. “Going to Tiedtke’s,” he said, “was just a special treat.”
“There was a magic about it.”
And there will be magic in the air again, with “the Tiedtke’s cheese,” as Mr. Block referred to it, “coming back to Toledo.”
After the slicing ceremony on Nov. 15, the mammoth cheese will be cut into small portions and will be available for sale at The Andersons stores at a special promotional price, in time to be enjoyed at Thanksgiving and into the holiday season.
“We’re doing this to have some fun and to do something unusual and of value for our customers,” Dan Anderson, president of The Andersons Retail Group, said Friday. “This was John Block’s idea and I was tickled with his energy and enthusiasm for this so I said, “Let’s give it a try.’ ”
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Evelyn Durdel Sandrock, 79, of Toledo, still remembers the excitement of the Tiedtke’s cheese. She should, as she was one of the young women who worked at Tiedtke’s and who was selected to pose with the cheese for promotional photos.
She had her picture taken with the giant cheese round for The Blade in 1955, when she was still a teenager, sitting atop the holiday cheese while making a sandwich. “It seems like ages ago,” she told The Blade last week. She worked in the store’s advertising office, which she thought was very exciting. “I used to get their coffee, and took ads to the departments” for proofreading and editing, she said, before then delivering them to The Blade for publication.
Mrs. Sandrock doesn’t remember how she was selected to be the one posing atop the Christmas cheese that year. But she said, “It took a ladder to climb up.” She was only 4’9” tall, while the cheese stood 3 inches taller.
Sadly, for those who remember the store with such affection, we won’t be going down to Tiedtke’s this Christmas.
But happily, thanks to The Andersons, Toledo will pay homage to Tiedtke’s by creating memories with a new, and renewed, holiday cheese tradition.