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Published: Friday, 5/16/2008

Where good times are in store

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Dave Hackenberg enjoys the samples at The Andersons. Dave Hackenberg enjoys the samples at The Andersons.
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Mike is from Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Norm is from a little town near Niagara Falls. Mike just turned 50; Norm is well into his 80s. They have nothing in common aside from being friends of mine who occasionally journey to Toledo and show an immediate interest, upon arrival, in visiting the same Toledo-area landmark.

Guess which one. Go ahead, take your time. We ll wait.

No, not the Toledo Zoo.

Not our art museum.

Not our ballpark.

Not our farmer s market.

No, no, not even Tony Packo s.

Good guesses one and all. But the answer is The Andersons.

They ll drive hundreds of miles, get out of a car, and demand I take them to a store.

Frankly, I don t mind. I even understand. After all, I m there at least once a week myself.

Every city has coffee shops and outlets for plumbing and electrical supplies. Every city has grocery stores and bakeries and meat markets. Every city has places where you can buy plants and fertilizer and lawn mowers and bird baths.

Every city has clothing stores where you can purchase anything from golf shirts to winter coats to work boots. Every city has a place where do-it-yourselfers can go for lumber supplies and fencing and paint products and wallpaper. Every city has pet supply outlets where you can buy bones for the dog, sunflower seeds for the squirrels, cakes of suet for the birds, and a squeaky toy for the kitty.

Every city has a delicatessen and every city has a wine shop. Every city has an auto parts store and places where you can buy greeting cards, toothpaste, and filters for your Mr. Coffee. Every city has a toy store and a tool store.

My town, your town, our town has a place where all of those things are under one roof.

So, Norm and Mike get out of their cars, pile into mine, and off we go to The Andersons.

If, in their minds, it is the No. 1 reason to travel to Toledo, so be it. I can think of worse reasons to visit a city.

Welcome to Enterprise, Ala., home of the Boll Weevil Monument.

Welcome to Easton, Pa., home of the PEZ Dispenser Museum.

Welcome to Milltown, Ind., home of the Shoe Tree.

(OK, the last one merits an explanation. It is an old tree, once struck by lightning, pretty much dead now, south of town near the intersection of Devils Hollow Road and Pine Knob Road, where people come from all around to drape old pairs of shoes over the branches. We can t make this stuff up, friends. All I know is that when you re from Toledo and you take all kinds of abuse from outsiders about your city, it s sort of fun to poke fun at somebody else. Right?)

So, if signs at the city limits of Toledo, Maumee, and Northwood were to say, Home of The Andersons, well, it works for me.

And, I know it works for Mike and Norm, although I probably haven t mentioned the real reason why it works.

They like free food. And anyone who has seen me knows I have no real aversion to it either.

The greeter at the front door should hand out a road map of samples. But Andersons veterans among us already have it down pat.

You start with fresh fruits slices of watermelon, peaches, oranges, and much more and vegetables, often bright red tomatoes, and sweet onions bathed together in a garlic dressing. Grab a couple salted peanuts in the shell (OK, maybe you re not supposed to do it, but what the heck?) on your way to the deli counter, where there are chunks of turkey and ham, cheeses and salads and salsas with toothpicks, and crackers piled high on little serving platters. Head down the aisle where the jams and jellies are located and there will be a plate of pretzels with a hot, spicy jelly to sample. Then, it s back to the bakery counter for tastes of muffins or cookies or fresh bread with dipping oil.

On we go to the K&J meat market where slices of sausages, casing hot dogs, and marinated chicken are sizzling on a griddle atop the counter. Then it s off to the HoneyBaked Ham kiosk to see what meats are sliced and ready to dip in creamy horseradish sauce.

If you happen to be there on a day when some of the exotic olives are available for sampling and it s a wine-tasting day, well, it s about the next best thing to hitting the lottery.

Of course, the folks at The Andersons aren t crazy. They know a little about marketing. One day last summer, Norm ate a few bucks worth of free food and dropped $600 on a snow blower to take back to western New York, where the winters are harsh up on the Niagara escarpment. Last fall, Mike had at least three of every sample in the joint one day and dropped a couple hundred dollars on salad dressings, sauces, about four different varieties of mustards, baked goods, and sausages he claims are impossible to find at stores on the Main Line in Philly. And he bought a mailbox post and a toilet seat, too. Don t ask.

Anyway, my guests eventually make it to the zoo and to a Mud Hens game and to the Libbey Glass outlet and, most certainly, to Packo s. They think the Valentine Theatre is tremendous and have been enthralled by the Toledo Symphony at the Stranahan Theater and the Peristyle. They think our art museum is world class, and they are certainly correct. They love our Metroparks and the Botanical Garden and our riverfront and think the Glass Bowl is a great place to watch a football game. They visit the Wolcott House and are amazed at our main library downtown and love dozens of our restaurants Norm, God bless him, has even been known to pick up a tab at Mancy s and many of our golf courses and I m pretty sure they ll feel the same way about our new arena.

But it all starts at a big general store.

Welcome to My Town, home of The Andersons.

It has a certain ring to it.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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