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Chaloner & Co.

Chaloner & Co. Est. 1874

In 1874, Charles A. Chaloner, a shoemaker from England, opened a newsstand, tobacco and confectionary shop at 108 W. Maumee Street in downtown Adrian. “It was originally supposed to be a shoemaker’s shop,” Bill Chaloner said in a 1972 interview with the Daily Telegram.

“My granddad was a shoemaker from the old country, but he changed trades because the shoe business got bad.” Three generations of the Chaloner family would go on to operate the business for more than 100 years in downtown Adrian.

Governor William Greenly

The first recorded owner of the plat at 108 W. Maumee Street was William Greenly, who would become the 6th Governor of Michigan. In 1847, while serving as governor, Greenly sold the land to Theodore Taylor for $200.

Historical evidence indicates that the building presently located at 108 W. Maumee Street was constructed sometime between 1848 and 1852.

By the early 1900s, a second generation of the family led by William H. Chaloner (son of Charles), and his wife, Mary, took over the business. They ran the popular downtown store for more than 30 years.

Second & Third Generations

In 1935, William and Mary turned over the family business to their son, Bill, and his wife, Mildred. Bill and Mildred ran the store for 42 years until Bill’s retirement in the beginning of 1977. Bill had a reputation for not saying much, but under his stern exterior, he had a heart of gold.

A 1978 Daily Telegram editorial celebrating the life of Bill Chaloner stated, “With Bill Chaloner’s retirement, the family dynasty of 103 years and three generations came to an end. With his passing, the community of Adrian lost one of its building blocks — for Bill Chaloner was cut from that mold of honest, hard-working people who created the base for Adrian through the years.”

"Bill Chaloner was cut from that mold of honest, hard-working people who created the base for Adrian through the years."

Daily Telegram, 1935

The Sign of the Turk

Among the most popular features of Chaloner’s was the old, elaborately carved, wooden sculpture that stood guard outside the store for many decades.

Standing just over six feet tall, wearing a turban with crescent moon while holding a long, slender pipe, “The Sign of the Turk” was purchased by Charles Chaloner in 1879. At the time, Mr. Chaloner was looking for a way to advertise his tobacco products and draw people into the store.

Originally intended to promote Michigan’s industry for “uncrackable” wood, these large figures were popular in commercial businesses of this era.

In the 1920s, the Turk got the worst of a run-in with brazen city officials who declared that he was impeding pedestrian traffic and confiscated him after the Chaloner family insisted on keeping him in his place.

The Turk disappeared one night and was later discovered in the town dump, ironically, with a crack slashed across his wooden face. After being rescued from the dump, the Turk was brought back to Chaloner’s and spent several more decades inside of the store.

In 1976, the Turk went on permanent loan to the Lenawee County Historical Museum, where he resides today. On Christmas Eve 2018, a hand-carved replica of the Turk was delivered to the 2nd floor of Chaloner & Co. where it greets Cigar House patrons.

Among the most popular features of Chaloner’s was the old, elaborately carved, wooden sculpture that stood guard outside the store for many decades.

Contemporary Ownership

From 1977 onward, Chaloner’s was owned, preserved, and carefully operated by several local families.

Fortunately, the new owners, who followed 103 years of the Chaloner family, not only continued to keep the business running, but, did it in the same fashion as the three generations of the Chaloner family before them.

On January 3, 1977, Joe Sauter, of long Adrian lineage, became the first owner and operator outside of the Chaloner family.

Thankfully, Sauter continued to operate the business in much the same tradition as the Chaloner family had for 103 years. Sauter owned and operated Chaloner’s from January of 1977 until September 5th 1989.

David and Cindy Mowrey purchased Chaloner & Co. from Mr. Sauter, also vowing to keep the Chaloner tradition alive by roasting raw cashews and redskin peanuts and, of course, supplying Adrian with its favorite popcorn.

David, an Adrian Public Schools educator, had been a loyal Chaloner’s customer for many years. He enjoyed frequent conversations with Mr. Chaloner and appreciated his assistance when ordering books for his history classes.

Cindy remembered her grandfathers, Ralph Carr and Sheriff Roscoe Scott, talking about the store. They would have been amazed to know that their granddaughter played a part in the history of Chaloner’s.

Popcorn

Popcorn

Over the years, one of the big lures to Chaloner’s was the famous popcorn. The large 1947 C. Cretors & Co. popper stood just inside of the front door, and whenever the door was opened, the aroma escaped onto the sidewalk.

In a 1999 interview with the Toledo Blade, local historian, Dr. Charles Lindquist acclaimed, “In this town, the standard for popcorn is Chaloner’s. The closer it is to that, the better.”

During the 2017-2018 renovation of Chaloner’s, the popper was fully restored to its former glory in order to ensure another 70 years of delicious flavors and enticing aromas for passersby on the sidewalk.

Building on Our Past to Improve Our Future

Located just west of the four corners in downtown Adrian, Chaloner & Co. has always been a special place. Once the main gathering spot for Adrian residents seeking news of the day, Chaloner’s is still a popular stop for shoppers looking for a fancy cigar, old-fashioned candy, or a fresh bag of popcorn.

Time changes most things, but at Chaloner’s, the past collides with the present. The character and atmosphere of Chaloner’s is almost beyond description. To walk across the creaking hardwood floor is like taking a step back in time.

To add to its nostalgia, the interior of Chaloner’s has changed very little throughout the years. Many of the old pipes, tobacco tins, and cigars that were once displayed in the front window, along with the numerous historic pictures and signs, still adorn the establishment today. It is, truly, one of a kind.

View Chaloner & Co. Store

Startling Detective Adventures, July, 1941

Another interesting, although less pleasant story involves a gruesome murder that occurred in Adrian on March 20th, 1941. The victim was a 69-year-old Chaloner employee named Herman Burger. When Burger failed to open the store on the morning of March 21st, authorities were contacted to investigate.

Burger was discovered dead in his downtown Adrian apartment having been savagely beaten. To add to the horrific nature of the crime, a twelve-inch ruler had been jammed down the man’s throat and a bottle of ink poured into his mouth. So bizarre were the events surrounding the murder, that a magazine titled Startling Detective Adventures chronicled the murder and the events leading to the capture of Burger’s killer in its July 1941 issue.

A combination of witnesses and fingerprints led police to arrest an Adrian resident, Fred Marsh. Apparently, Marsh was angry with Burger for ejecting him from Chaloner’s on several different occasions. He planned to rob and murder Burger in retaliation for the bad treatment he had received.

When questioned as to why he jammed the ruler down Burger’s throat, Marsh responded that he didn’t know. He did, however, admit to police that he had poured ink in Burger’s mouth because the elderly man was gurgling and he wanted to shut him up for good. Marsh was subsequently tried and found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison for his crime.

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