At the center of Whitestown is something that’s rare these days — a small, locally owned food market.
Sony and Jessie Mann opened Friendly Market two years ago. Sunny Mann, who lives nearby and manages the store, says that when the family purchased the building at Pierce and Main streets in the heart of the downtown area, it had been vacant for just under three years. With paint, elbow grease and some modernizing, they reopened the only grocery within the old town limits.
When Whitestown had its own grade school and high school, it was a lively spot. Over the years old-timers have seen the passing of such amenities as a service station, a bank, pharmacy, bustling barbershop, department store, grain elevator, and even a much-loved rollerskating rink.
Some old standbys still remain though. Summer brings flocks of families to the playground and picnic areas of the Lions Club Community Park. The baseball diamonds are crowded for practices and games during the Little League and Babe Ruth seasons. Luckily, all those fans and players can stop in at Friendly Market to pick up sports drinks, candy and shell-on sunflower seeds before heading to their big games. For several years, that wasn’t an option.
The old high school has been converted into Moontown Brewing Company, a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The town also has L.A. Cafe and EBoom Electric Bikes on Main Street, L.A. Cycles on Porter Avenue, and a handful of other small businesses.
Before the Manns resurrected the old corner store, it had weathered many fits and starts of fledgling businesses after Frank’s Foodliner ceased operations in 1983 when Frank and Peggy Coahran retired. Believed to have been a food store since the earliest years of the 20th century, many proprietors kept up the local market tradition over time.
Upon the Coahran’s exit, changes were afoot. The prime corner was put to use in several short-term ventures including a delicatessen, an organic produce market, and a convenience store. Unfortunately for historic downtown Whitestown, none of the new businesses lasted long.
Now, with Friendly Foods holding down the spot, both commuters and locals have become regulars. A morning parade of those seeking an easy-in-easy-out cup of fresh brewed coffee, a wrapped and ready-to-go lunch sandwich, or a sweet roll to make the commute more bearable is filled with friendly faces. Many greet the store’s staff, and each other, by name.
Sunny mans the cashier’s station and answers customer questions about where to look for a last minute gift, like an artisan candle, or a dozen eggs before the next snow storm blows in. From the raised check-out stand, the greetings and conversations of local happenings are kept light, yet sincere.
Friendly Foods lives up to its name as a new long-term tradition as the corner store.