40-somethings treasure Dot, Mack

By Regina Villiers. Originally published August 25, 1999 in The Suburban Life, added August 15, 2017.


Dot and Mack Baldridge pose for a rare photo in their store, a popular business in Madeira until 1975.


When Dorothy (“Dot”) Baldridge died July 27, at the age of 95, a nostalgic, well-remembered era officially ended.

Although Dot and Mack’s grocery store closed in 1975, Dot had lived in Madeira with her daughter, Ellen Moermand and family, and among her many friends.

Dot ad Mack’s was a corner “mom and pop” grocery, right where one should be located, on the main corner in the middle of Madeira.  It sat on the southeast corner of Miami and Laurel, across the street from Adrien’s Pharmacy.

Before it was Dot and Mack’s, it had been Hemsath’s Grocery.  Before that, in the early part of this century, it had been Tice’s Grocery.  In recent years, several short-lived businesses have been there.  Currently, a restaurant occupies the space, but it is still thought of as Dot and Mack’s corner.

Dot and Mack Baldridge bought the store in 1955 from Mary Hemsath.  Mack had worked for much of his life at Rainbo Bakery, delivering bread and baked goods to stores in the area.  He always had dreamed of owning his own store.

Dot and Mack carried a bit of everything in their store.  It was a true neighborhood store.  They took great pride in their meat case and hired their own butcher.  Many people today still recall “Ed, the butcher.”

Dot always said a big factor in the success of the store was that they made home deliveries and had a lot of customers in Indian Hill.

They hired many a Madeira teenager as grocery and delivery boys, giving them a start in life.  Two of those boys still remembered are Gary Toft, son of George and Lavaun Toft, and Jim Ward, son of Russ and Betty Ward.

But if the store was important to grown-ups because of its meat and groceries, it was an absolute mecca for the children of Madeira, because of its penny candy.

“It had the best selection of penny candy and bubble gum anywhere,” said Ruth Smith, a lifelong family friend of Dot and Mack.

The daughter of Joe and Norma Baker, she grew up on Wallace Avenue a short distance from the store.  She remembers going to the store for her parents and of being allowed to buy candy.

“The candy was kept in back of the counter,” she said, “but you could go in back to make your selection.”

She recalls a difference in the times by saying she was allowed to buy a pack of cigarettes for her dad, if she took a note from home.

Juanita Baker also recalls that you could buy cigarettes, if you took a note from your parents.

“Everybody knew one another then,” she said,  “and it was such a nice, friendly store.”

The store was important to kids in another way.  Dot and Mack bought bottles and would pay two cents each for them.  That was a lot of money in those days, and it encouraged kids to be entrepreneurs and to work for what they wanted.

A familiar sight on a summer’s day would be to see a couple of kids pulling a red wagon, going around the streets of Madeira searching for bottles, cleaning up the streets while lining their own pockets, and building up their wealth.

Dot talked about this several years ago.

“We’d to out and count their bottles,” she said.  “Then they’d come in and buy their candy, bubble gum, and baseball cards.   They’d have such a good time making up their minds.”

In those days, kids didn’t get ferried to school by buses and parents.  They walked.  In the afternoons, Dot and Mack’s was an important stop off point for them.

Sometimes, kids would stop in even when they didn’t buy anything.  They’d stop to talk to Dot.  She was a good listener.

Dot was a good listener because she was a teacher, and she had a rapport with kids.

At her funeral, Gary Allman delivered a eulogy for her and told how his life and the lives of her and her family had intertwined over the years.

He explained that he had first met her when she was his third-grade teacher at Miami Hills Elementary (now Dumont School).  She had come there as a long-term sub and had stayed on to teach.

He explained how their two lives had touched over the years, back and forth.  Now, he and Ellen, Dot’s daughter, are partners, and they operate the Curious Garden a well-known Madeira landmark.

Dot’s sister-in-law, Mack’s sister, Loree Long, also still lives in Madeira.  She and Dot were always best friends, Ellen says.  They were longtime roommates while both were teaching in their early years, and Loree introduced Dot to her brother, Mack.

Dot and Mack also lived there on their corner.  Their home and their store were attached to each other.  You merely walked through a door, and you were in the store.  On a cold or rainy day, they didn’t have to brave the elements to get to work.

Though Dot and Mack are both gone now, and the building has been demolished, the corner will always be “Dot and Mack’s,” in the hearts of those over 40.

It’s a revered spot of their childhood-gone, but not forgotten.

Although demolished, Dot and Mack’s “mom and pop” store on the corner of Miami and Laurel avenues in Madeira remains a revered spot those over 40 who remember it from their childhoods.