Check this out – life begins at 80

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2001

Features Editor

At about the same time Santa Claus is beginning to load his sleigh, Grace Ingram will be blowing out the candles on her 80th birthday cake and everyone will be pestering her for the secret of eternal youth.

"Hard work and a lot of fishing," she will say and many will subscribe to the fishing but shun the hard work.

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Mrs. Ingram has never shied away from hard work and she, laughingly, admits the first 80 years have been the hardest. The next 80 she expects to be a succession of birthday parties.

However, if she can’t have a party every day, she’ll just spend her days, happily, at Ingram’s Curb Market where she has been – happily – since 1959.

Prior to then, she and her husband, Jack, owned a truck farm near Josie and grew produce that folks would walk a country mile to get.

In 1959, the couple opened a curb market on the corner of North Three Notch Street and Fairview Avenue in Troy. And, evidently it was a better "mousetrap" because folks, literally, beat a path to their market.

Mrs. Ingram said she was a little surprised by the success of the curb market, but not "that" surprised because "everybody’s got to eat."

The Ingrams prided themselves on good produce, good meats and good, friendly service and their business grew and grew.

In 1966, the Ingrams had an opportunity to buy land "on the corner." They thought it would be a good business decision to buy the land and build a "modern" market to replace their curbside market.

"We had to mortgage our farm and sell all of our cows to come up with the money to buy the land and build the store," Mrs. Ingram said. "I remember it cost us $6,000 to stock the store and that was a lot of money back then. It was a big decision, but we made the decision together."

And, together, with their four children, they made it work.

"It" was a modern grocery store, but with the heart and soul of a curb market. "It" was, and is, "Ingram’s Curb Market."

A couple of years after the new store opened, the Ingrams made another major decision in their lives. They decided to move from the country to the city.

"We had two daughters at home and we had to get someone to stay with them when we worked at night," Mrs. Ingram said. "We needed to move to Troy, for them."

For Mrs. Ingram, it was a big move.

"Back when I was growing up and we went to town, we went to Brundidge," she said. "I guess the first time I went to Troy was when Jack and I went to get our marriage license."

So, country came to town and fit right in with city life.

Ingram’s Curb Market quickly became known far and wide for the quality of merchandise it stocked, especially its meats and produce.

"Years ago, we bought whole cows and hogs and we’d hang them in the cooler and cut the meat ourselves and it was very good meat," Mrs. Ingram said. "We cut up chickens, too, but we sold the whole chicken. I would have never thought people would buy a bag of wings. Those were the scrap parts of the chicken back then."

In those days,

the Ingrams operated their market largely on "credit" and most people were good, honest people who could be trusted to pay up when they could.

Over the years Jack and Grace Ingram became the "mom and pop" of the grocery business and shopping at their curb market was like shopping with family.

"Back then, we knew just about everybody that came in the store," Mrs. Ingram said. "We enjoyed every minute we were at the store. It was our second home."

When Jack Ingram died, Mrs. Ingram felt her place was still "in the store." After all, the curb market was a big part of her life and her customers were also her friends.

The decision to stay "curbside" was a good one – "the right one."

Ingram’s Curb Market has experienced two growth spurts and survived the competition of grocery store chains.

Mrs. Ingram continues to give credit to hard work, good products, good service and outstanding employees.

"I’ve been fortunate," she said. "I’ve lived almost 80 years, now, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in the grocery business and in my life. I guess, the biggest change, the one that has made the most difference, is electricity. We got electricity at our house on my 16th birthday and I’ll never forget how excited I was.

"It’s been good to live when there have been so many changes that have made life better. You appreciate things more and I appreciate everything, especially my family and my friends."

And Mrs. Ingram said there is nothing on earth that equals the joy and pleasure that comes when you can pick up a pole and head to the creek bank after a long, hard day’s work.

"Nothing except a reason to yell, ‘Roll Tide,’" she said, laughing.