Hollywood actress remembers Madeira store

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published December 1, 2004 in The Suburban Life, added December 14, 2016.

Camargo Foods, a Parkview/IGA store, once was located on Euclid Avenue in Madeira, a location now occupied by Madeira Frame and Body. Camargo Foods was owned by John Yasbeck. This photo was furnished by his daughter, actress Amy Yasbeck, who will star in a new Fox network television show starting in January.

Camargo Foods, a Parkview/IGA store, once was located on Euclid Avenue in Madeira, a location now occupied by Madeira Frame and Body. Camargo Foods was owned by John Yasbeck. This photo was furnished by his daughter, actress Amy Yasbeck, who will star in a new Fox network television show starting in January.

Now and then in a lifetime of writing stories, an idea will soar and exceed the wildest dreams of a writer.  That happened with this story.  It started with a simple idea and ended with help and numerous phone calls from a very real “movie star” in Hollywood.  We’ve talked so much that I boast that she has become my “new best friend.”

Tim Yeomans came to me with the idea months and months ago.  He grew up in the “Point” area of Madeira and told me about a store he remembered from his youth, a Parkview Market.  He waxed nostalgic with memories of buying all his treats and candy with money from selling soft drink bottles to the store.  New houses were going up everywhere in the area.  He and a friend would gather bottles left behind by workers, he said, and sell them to the store.

Tim told me to call Mary McCreary and gave me her phone number.  Mary had worked at the store for many years, he said, and would know all about it.

When I called Mary, she was even more enthusiastic about the store than Tim had been.  She had started to work there in 1959.  It was a wonderful place to work, she told me.  She told me what a wonderful boss she had.  He was the owner.  His name was John Yasbeck.  He had a wonderful family.  She had known them all, she said.  She started listing the children, telling me what happened to them after they grew up.  Two sons still live in Blue Ash.  One daughter went to Detroit.  Another daughter went to Hollywood and became a movie star.

And at that moment, the story mushroomed and took off.  A name clicked in my brain.

“Was her name Amy?” I asked.  “Yes. That’s her.  Do you know her?”  Mary asked me.

Well, no, I didn’t, not at that time.  But I knew about her.  And I certainly know her now.

She had been married to John Ritter, the popular star of the TV show, “Eight Simple Rules.”  When he died so tragically a little more than a year ago, I had seen her then on many TV news shows, and I never forget a head of gorgeous red hair.  I also remembered her from “Pretty Woman,” one of my favorite movies.  Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I could contact her?  Maybe she’d remember the store and Madeira.  I was involved in a writing class, “Saving Stories,” at Sellman Middle School and mentioned to my class that a movie star’s name had popped up in a story I was researching and that I thought I’d try to contact her.  The students knew about her, too, and became quite excited about the idea.

But how to contact her?  Stars and celebrities don’t just put their addresses and phone numbers out there for the public. And who can blame them?  They are hounded until even a hint of privacy in their lives is next to impossible.  But I decided to try.  I wrote her a letter.  Then I looked up the name and address of her agent and sent the letter there.  I warned the kids in the class not to hope too much.  We’d sit back and wait.

I kept pushing the story back to the end of my list.  Weeks, months went by.  Then in October, I received in the mail a distinctive letter, postmarked Hollywood and looking exactly like a letter from a “star.  It was a dramatic, artistic letter, with beautiful handwriting.  (Amy Yasbeck had dreamed of being an art teacher instead of an actress, she later told me.)

The letter, a four-page missive, was dated Oct. 10.  She had finally received my letter only the day before.  She remembered the store well, she wrote.

She thought of it often, and she would like to talk to me, I could hardly believe that she gave me her address, her e-mail address, and a phone number to call her.  I called her.  She called me.  We talked and talked.

She called me back, several times.  She’s amazing.  It’s evident that she is a cut above average, but she’s real.  She’s articulate, intelligent, interesting witty.  She’s fun to talk to and easy to talk to.  We’ve talked about many things, and all of it stops with my ears except what she said about the store.  Her early memories of home and family are tied to the store.

Her father, John Yasbeck, was born in Canada.  He served in World War II as a test pilot.  He moved to Detroit and bought a store.  They lived there 14 years.  From Detroit, the Yasbecks move to Cincinnati.  They lived in Blue Ash, and her dad bought the store in Madeira.

It was called Camargo Foods, Amy said, and it was a store in the Parkview/IGA chain.  Her dad bought the store in 1957 and owned it until 1978, when he retired.

“He sold it to two gentlemen from Indiana,” she said.

Amy, many years younger than any of her brothers and sister, was born while her father owned the store and grew up in it.  She went to high school at Ursuline.  Her two older brothers, Rex and Jay, worked in the store and still live here on the east side.

Amy had Rex call me.  He was just as nice and helpful as she.  He affirmed what she’d told me, but the had a special memory of Madeira, which he still talks about in amazement.

“We didn’t lock the store, he said.  “No one ever bothered anything.

I remember that about Madeira, too, when we moved here, an “open door” policy.  Up and down my street, doors were always ajar.

Only one woman locked her doors.  She was considered “odd” and was the butt of jokes.  I don’t know when, or why, Madeira’s open door” policy changed.

John Yasbeck died in 1982.  His wife had died about a year earlier.  By the time her dad died, Amy was about halfway though Marygrove College in Detroit.  Being so much younger than her brothers and sisters, and pretty much on her own, she dropped out of college and went to New York, where her life and career took off.

It was hard to limit this to a story about the store and not make it the Amy Yasbeck story.  But her story will continue when I write a later story about her new TV sitcom, which will start in January on the FOX network.  We’ve discussed it, and she has promised to send a press kit.

I hope the kids in the “Saving Stories” class will learn from this.  This is a story that almost did not get saved.  But it got an idea.  It got saved and came straight from the mouth and heart of one who remembers it, a movie star with more than a dozen films to her credit, who is so nice and real that she uses her own real name, Amy Yasbeck, I like to think of her as my “new best friend.”