This post comes from reader Dennis. I know of the building, but that area wasn't really in our orbit growing up, and I don't think we ever stopped at Ailes':
I took these photos today. Not really a timely "Closing," just some nostalgic rambling.
This building at 3123 Beltline was Roche Brothers last summer, and is now Taste of Jamaica, but it will always be Ailes' Market to me. I lived about two blocks away from about 1967 to 1979, from ages 10 to 22, and Mr. Ailes lived right around the corner from us. My mother didn't drive, and didn't have a car even if she could have, so I was almost daily sent to Ailes' to get something or another. I didn't mind at all. It was a chance to get out of the house, and Ailes' had a wonderful candy aisle. It was understood that when I went on a errand there, some of the change would get spent on candy. We also did a lot of wash at the laundromat that was directly across Beltline; same building that is now a sad looking office center. That laundromat was dim and dirty, loud and hot (no A.C.) but only a block from the house.
Ailes' was a typical general store/gas station of the time, before giant national conglomerates put a Fast Fare or a Pantry (like the one to the left of it now) on every corner. Also before I-77 was even thought of, so a LOT of big semi-trucks rattled down Beltline day and night. Mr. Ailes alone decided what he would sell, and he had a little bit of everything. Rat traps to onions. Velveeta to plastic model kits. Spark plugs to tampons. Of interest to a kid like me, in addition to the candy, was the fireworks he had, the excellent comic book rack, the baked snacks like Little Debbie's and Mickey's and Sweet Sixteen donuts that were always fresh and delicious, not like the awful mess you often get today.
Mr. Ailes held court at the front, on the left as you came in, on a wooden bar stool behind his cash register. He had an anti-burglary shotgun prominently displayed on the wall behind him, right next to that sign about "We made a deal with the bank - they don't sell beer and we don't cash checks." There was also a board of shame displaying checks written to the store that had bounced, and of course the faded Polaroids of regular customers holding fish they had caught using his worms.
On the other side of the counter, also on wooden bar stools, were three or four men who were either unemployed or retired or had the greatest unsupervised jobs in the world, because they were always there, chain smoking and drinking beer. I guess one of them was his gas attendant. On the counter was the requisite gallon jar of homemade pickled eggs and a clipboard with a college football parlay card on it. One dollar per square. Also on the counter was this big can-opening device that pierced two perfect triangles in steel beer cans (I know -- I'm old.) The beer came out of one of three big, old, heavy coolers with solid steel lids. If you opened one and "shopped" too long you'd get yelled at to close it. In addition to popsicles and the menfolks' PBR and Old Milwaukee, they had ICE cold Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew (in the green glass bottle with the hillbilly moonshiner on it), Nehi, Fanta, Patio, and Crush.
Next to his seated entourage Mr. Ailes had three or four old fashioned pinball machines -- not fun games with flippers, but just a bunch of holes for the balls to fall into. If you won you got 5¢ (or was it a penny?) per point right out of the cash register. I never understood it and it was clear that they were for adults only.
Speaking of adults only, while I was in the right front corner reading comics, and MAD, and Cracked, and Sick, and later National Lampoon, (He didn't care how long I loitered in the store) I soon discovered a section of the trashiest, sleaziest black & white smut magazines imaginable, which he would yell at me not to look at, but of course many times I did anyway. Warped for life.
In the back left corner was a snack bar that had decent fries, burgers and dogs, cooked up by a nice little old man with the sweats and the shakes who was clearly a struggling alcoholic. We went there on hot summer days after swimming across the street at the Bradley Terrace Pool (Restricted -- Whites only) which was where that small nursing home is now. I remember seeing my first microwave oven at that snack bar.
If you went outside to the right there was a pretty nice two chair barbershop way in the back corner of the building (see the door in the photo?). The building next door was Diamond Xanthakis' liquor store, or a "red dot" store to us.
A Hess station was built on the other side of the store, overnight it seemed, and as you might expect it killed Ailes' gas sales and he got rid of his two pumps. Not sure what year Mr. Ailes sold the store. It struggled on for a long time as a out of date convenience store.
Thanks, Dennis -- Ted
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