All in the Family: Weber's corner store

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Weber's Market has weathered a lot of storms-both figurative and literal- in its 136-year history. Despite flood waters lapping at its second story walls and chain supermarkets forcing many fellow corner groceries out of business, Weber's has remained a fixed constant on the corner of Third and Scammel streets since 1876.

A couple of things have made possible the resilience of the market-adaptation to change and a long standing family, according to current owner Tony Weber.

"I don't know how small businesses like this would operate if you didn't have family," he said.

Tony, 56, took over the business from his parents, Dick and Betty Weber in 1988, and is one of many in a long line of relatives who have taken the reigns of the store. The first, Tony's great-grandfather August, founded the August Weber Grocery Company in 1876.

August and brother Adam had recently immigrated to the area from Germany where they had been plasterers. Unable to plaster in the cold winter months, August started operating a market out of his small home, said Tony.

When August eventually decided to give up plastering and make the grocery store a year-round job, he had a lot of help, said Betty, 81.

"He had eight children and all but one worked in the store here or at home," she said.

Similarly, Tony and his six siblings grew up working odd jobs in the store. Sorting glass soda bottles to be shipped back to their original vendor was one of Tony's earliest jobs in the store, but the children also swept floors, dusted shelves and did whatever else was needed.

"When we were growing up, we all pitched in and worked. We were just used to that," he said.

Now that Tony has taken over, his mother does the same.

"Usually about once a day she'll run through the drive through and see if I need anything, need any errands run or anything," he said.

Family work ethic may be unchanged over the years, but it is about the only thing.

From the shape and size of the store to the goods and services it offers, the store has changed a lot since Betty married Tony's father in 1953, she said.

Standing in the room that now houses beer, wine and liquor Monday, Betty gestured wide with her hands and describes how the space used to look when it was the sole room of the store: "There used to be a long counter right here and the clerk would be standing behind it. And a customer would walk up and hand their list to a clerk who would go find everything."

Weber's Market eventually outgrew the small room. In fact, it has grown both out and up over the years. After the Great Flood of 1913 in Marietta, Tony's relatives decided to add a third level to the already two-story building.

"Back then you didn't build out, you built up," said Tony.

The third story proved a wise addition in 1937 when the flood waters touched the second floor.

It was Tony's additions that saw the store expand outward. The carry-out was added in 1982 and the new addition-which now houses groceries and the meat counter-was added in 1995. Around that same time, Tony applied for a liquor permit and added a catering service to the store.

"Had we not made the changes we did when we did, then we probably wouldn't be here. A lot of different things work together to make us be able to work here," he said.