Monday, May 27, 2013

Dirks Grocery Store

The Dirks family operated a grocery store along East Washington Street for much of the twentieth century.  Edward Dirks, Sr. moved to Irvington in the early 1910s and opened a store at 5548 East Washington Street.  Later, as his business expanded, he moved into 5524 East Washington Street.  Both structures are now gone.  The store is mentioned in several of the oral histories conducted in the 1970s and 1980s by the Irvington branch (Hilton U. Brown branch--in those days) of the Marion County-Indianapolis Public Library. Local Irvingtonians recalled dialing up Mr Dirks on their phones to place an order.  His staff, generally local high school students and young men, would get in a wagon or a car and drop off the groceries.  Neighbors could walk to the store and choose vegetables and meat, but most items were behind the counter so the process was quite time consuming. Even after larger stores like Standard Grocery and others came into the community, Dirks continued to thrive.  Store loyalty was very high in those days.

Throughout the 1920s, Butler University students shopped at the store.  On the night of February 2, 1923, several college students heard a thump inside the closed store and peeked into the windows.  One student thought he saw two white guys and an African-American male.  Assuming they were burglars, a crowd soon gathered.  One hundred college students surrounded the store in case the burglars tried to flee.  The police showed up and entered the store.  Officers exited the building with a cat.  The incident garnered front page news the next morning and likely elicited a few chuckles around the city.

Edward and his wife Anna Bloemker first dwelled in a two-story home at 24 North Ritter Avenue.  He built a large barn behind his house in 1914 to house his delivery vehicles. As his fortunes rose, Mr. Dirks moved his family into a spacious brick American Four Square at 50 N. Kenmore Road.  The couple had three children, Mildred, Helen, and Edward, Jr. Young Edward would take over the family business in the early 1950s until he finally sold it in 1966.  Ask any mid-twentieth-century resident of Irvington and you will hear stories of shopping at Dirks.

In the top two historic images, courtesy of the Larry Muncie Collection from the Irvington Historical Society, you can see two deliverymen ready to begin their routes.  Mr. Muncie has zoomed in on one of  the men so we can see his face.  The third historic image is an advertisement that came out of the 1927 Drift, a Butler University yearbook.

Dirk's Grocery delivery men 

The contemporary images show the Dirks homes in 2013.  24 North Ritter Avenue was moved in the early 1930s to its current location in the 300 block of North Ritter.  The previous site was needed for commercial expansion.  The last image shows the beautiful home at 50 North Kenmore Road where the Dirks dwelled throughout much of the twentieth century.  The house still retains its beautiful roof tiles.

The Dirks home used to be at 24 North Ritter Ave.  It now sits in the 300 block of North Ritter Avenue.  It was moved in the early 1930s.   

Edward and Anna Dirks moved into this home at 50 North Kenmore Road in the 1920s. 

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