Howard Umer carries a trash can Inside the market at closing time. Howard retired after SOyears In the grocery business. His father, John W. Lamer, started the original Lamer's Market In 1946. Howard and Judy Lamer aren't just retiring, they're leaving their home PHOTO STORY BY MIKE SHEPHERD H oward Lamer is getting out of the . grocery business. After 50 years, he's retiring. Last month new owners took over Lamer's Market at 145 N. Phillips. Business had been brisk for Lamer. The decision to retire comes more than a year after Lamer's wife, Judy, suffered a heart attack. Lamer had to work the majority of the six 12-hour days the store is open. Jutly Lamer had cut back to about two or three hours each day. "Judy, she's a good gal," Lamer said of his wife of 27 years. "She's just not able to work the hours." Because the Lamers worked for themselves, there's been little time for vacations and each other over the past few years. "We've always worked together, but never really had time to enjoy each other," Judy said. "The store has always come first." Lamer said to make money, they've had to keep the store open, He said they only took 1-1/2 days of vacation last year. "People say 'You don't maJce enough money for the hours you put in,'" Lamer said. "That's true, I suppose." For Howard and Judy, the market has been home. "(Our) life is in this store," Judy said of the tiny market. "This is a home. This Is where my friends are." And more than a home, it's been a community center. "This neighborhood is like its own little tovm because of Mr. Lamer's store," said April Northrup, 19. Northrup visited the store in March vdth her friend, Wesley Spragg, also 19, who cruised the store's five aisles In roller blades. Spragg doesn't roller blade in every store, "Just Mr. Lamer's store," he said. "He's one of the most trusting people 1 know. He gave me a charge account when I didn't even have a job." Sometimes, Lamer said, he's forgotten who owes him, until they come In to pay. He said it's possible some people have taken advantage of him. But he's not concerned. "Three cents won't hurt a guy," he said. It's that trust that has fostered a bond between the Lamers and their customers. "The people I admire the most are the §1- ^^^^^^ HHiiiS A portrait of John W. Lamer, Howard Lamer's father, hangs on the back wall of Lamer's Mari(6t. The elder Lamer opened the market on East North Street In 1946. people without much money," Judy Lamer said. "Their word is good. We've helped them by letting them charge, but they've helped us by keeping us in business." Minor Harris, a Salina resident since 1956, said he remembers visiting Howard's dad, John, at the original Lamer's Market on East North Street. The elder Lamer opened the store in 1946. Lamer started working there when he was 12. He took over the store after his father retired in the early 1980s,The charge accounts scrawled by hand In a notebook have helped many over the years, he said. "A lot of people don't have a lot of money, and here they can charge until the end of the week," Harris said. "I know a lot of people In this town, and they're some of the best — right there. Good people, Howard and Judy." Lamer has plans to help the new owners get started, but after a couple of weeks, he said he doesn't want to work. "Judy says she's had four people offer me a job if I retke," Lamer said. "I sure wouldn't want a job for awhile. I'd like to see how the other half lives." Customers range In age from grade school children to senior citizens Heather Carter, 9, and Ashley Haugaard, 13, hang out outelde Lamer's Market after stopping to buy some candy. Lamer stocks shelves. Despite Its size, the store has a brisk business.
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