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Mom & Pop Store

Posted by Jim Botticelli  October 21, 2013 11:42 AM

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storeroxbury1.jpg
The Sunrise to Sunset Market, Warren St, Roxbury, later called Sunrise to Midnight

"The best kind of voyeurism is hearing joy from your neighbors." ... Chuck Sigars

     Need a quart of milk, a pack of smokes, today's paper? Run to the nearest 7-11, White Hen, Tedeschi's, or any of the chains that have replaced an American tradition. Oh, they carry the goods you need, but chances are you won't know from whom you are buying them. The store you now use has replaced the one that used to be down on the corner, out on the street, a.k.a. the Mom & Pop Store. Usually owned and run by a single family with at least three generations contributing to the work load, the Mom & Pop shop was more than a place to grab a pack of smokes. It was a place to get caught up on what was happening on the block. It was a place to know and see your neighbors. It was a place to get an advance prior to the arrival of the weekly paycheck. And if you were prompt with the payback when the check arrived it was usually interest free. Hell, you probably cashed it there! This writer knows. His own grandfather was once called The Godfather of Ball Square and was known for his elaborate loan system, generous to the quick paybacker, less so to those who dragged butt.
     This is the story of an immigrant named Russell Dikmak (behind the counter above) who emigrated to this country through Ellis Island from Damascus, Syria at the age of 13 and joined several of his brothers here in the South End/Roxbury area in the early part of the 1900s. In those days they resided in what was a Syrian Neighborhood in the South End near Shawmut Ave, where there may still be a small Syrian goods store to this day. Dikmak himself then moved to Roxbury, started raising a family, and opened and ran the Sunrise to Midnight Market with several of his brothers. They continued to grow the business throughout the Depression and always had access to rare items like butter and sugar and other things that were short in supply during that era. His family never went without and ate well, but he would share these items with others in the community during the shortages. He was a hunter, avid gardener, and a gourmet cook embracing American foods and recipes. You could find him on his days off entertaining and making great dishes for family and friends. He lived back then as many do now, in a sustainable way, picking fresh ingredients and herbs right from his garden, jarring pickles, canning tomatoes and other produce at the end of each season.
RussellStore.jpg
     Russell Dikmak's store grew within the community, and he not only sold the classic S.S. Pierce products, but produce, game and other meats, Drakes Cakes and sundries. Dikmak also had a Soda Fountain and lunch counter. Try finding that in a 7-11. He and his brothers, family and friends worked there for years, until the era of strip malls and larger grocery stores prompted their decision to retire from the business and sell the store.
     Russell Dikmak, to this day is the mentor in his family for great foods, cooking, gardening and enjoying the pure ingredients the family always had access to. He was someone who always gave back to the community. He is the personification of a Bostonian and urban disappearing America. Gimme a slice of apple pie and a coffee regular in a cup and saucer.
storeroxbury.jpg

Thanks to Paula Sawyer, grandaughter of Russell Dikmak, for photos and memories.
If YOU have a DOB family story and pictures, please contact DJJimmyBee@comcast.net

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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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