Rushville Republican

April 11, 2013

Wolfsie: Jarring experience

Dick Wolfsie
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — The sign in Grannie Fuchs’ store in Metamora is pretty direct: “You break it—you own it.” Fair warning to those who cruise the tiny shop full of items easily shattered. But the admonition also applies to an honor about to be bestowed by the folks at Guinness World Records who agree that once a record is broken you also own it…at least until they say otherwise.

What’s the record we’re talking about? Grannie Fuchs’ little store, officially known as Grannie’s Ice Cream and Cookie Jars, features over 2,500 different cookie jars. Wait, I should be specific. (You know how fussy those Guinness people are.) That would be 2,653, to be exact…and it never changes. Once a jar is sold, it’s quickly replaced on the shelf. That’s the most cookie jars on public display anywhere in the world.

Folks entering the store (open in this location since 2011) are immediately overwhelmed, often thinking they’ve happened upon a museum and not a retail establishment. Many see jars they remember from childhood. “I had my hand slapped several times dipping into that one,” remembers one customer.

Grannie, 77, who suffers from a touch of Alzheimer’s, still maintains an encyclopedic memory of her inventory. On a recent buying trip she picked out 135 jars, each of them unique to the store’s collection. “That’s one thing she never forgets. She’s knows everything we have for sale,” says her daughter Connie, who along with her sister, helps maintain the shop, one of the few in Metamora open year-round.

Where does Grannie find her cookie jars? Estate sales, cookie jar auctions (yes, they exist) and garage sales, where she often gets a really good deal. A jar she buys for three bucks can go for quite a bit more if it’s unusual. You should have gone to the garage sale, yourself.  People also bring their used jars to Grannie, knowing she’ll find a good home for them. She even has a small group of “shoppers” who are also on the lookout for novel items. Most jars are in the $15 to $40 range, but there are a few, like the one with Hopalong Cassidy’s head as the lid, that are limited editions and go for a several hundred bucks.

The jars are not placed willy-nilly on the shelves, but are categorized for easy selection if you do have a motif in mind. Superheroes (Batman, Hulk, Superman, for example), Disney characters (Snow White, Mickey Mouse), Western (Gene Autry, Roy Rogers). Also, Christmas, animals, flowers and jars advertising company products like Quaker Oats. Some are works of art, and others are pretty chintzy looking. Interestingly, many of the jars’ odd shapes make them lousy receptacles for cookies. Some buyers are more collectors than cookie hoarders, but it’s an impulse buy for those who are just browsing. “Once we get folks in the store, it’s hard for them to resist a cookie jar,” says Connie.

Several manufacturers bring in top dollar, especially the McCoy Company. Some makers have used the McCoy name on the bottom of their jars illegally when reproducing the item, thus the origin of the phrase “The Real McCoy.” There are several alternative theories on the genesis of this expression, but this one works best in this story.

The only food they sell is the best darn-tootin’ ice cream in a waffle cone you’ll ever taste. “People wonder why we don’t sell cookies,” says Connie. “I really don’t know why people ask that.” Yeah, what a silly question.

Earlier in this column I noted that Grannie’s store would be in the Guinness World Records, but I have just learned that this has not been made official yet. So, for now, let’s keep a lid on it.