Jewell Kidd’s Grocery and Deli reopens to honor legacy of Neil and Ruby Jewell Kidd
By Eugenia Jones
If one has their mind set on camping, picnicking, fine trout fishing, or just resting beneath the trees with a good book while soaking up the peaceful sounds of forest and stream, It really doesn’t get much better than taking a trip alongside the banks of the icy cold waters of McCreary County’s Rock Creek-a state designated Wild River.
However, with the reopening of Jewell Kidd’s Grocery and Deli, the trip to Rock Creek just got better.
The charming store, easily recognized by the green and yellow Wink drink sign out front, was built by Guy and Cornelius (Neil) Kidd in 1930. The two brothers built the store on the edge of Rock Creek and worked together until 1934 when Neil met Ruby Jewell Bell and fell in love. Neil bought out Guy’s share of the store so he and his soon-to-be bride could operate the business together. Guy moved down the creek to White Oak Junction, built his own store, and eventually married Jewell’s cousin, Ada Dolen.
Guy and Jewell made a success of their business, and the store soon became a hub of the community. The Cooperative post office operated out of one corner of the store. Neil and Jewell sold dry goods, including clothing and shoes, in one half of the small store and sold groceries and “notions” in the remaining half. Additionally, the store sold gas and fishing/hunting licenses. Proof of the store’s brisk business is verified by the 1949 Texaco award presented to the store for exceptional gasoline sales. The original Texaco award certificate is now prominently displayed for all to see.
When Jewell and Neill first married and took over the business, they slept on a cot behind the counter. As time went by, the couple added a living room, kitchen, and bedroom to the store. They continued enlarging the living section of the store building, eventually adding a bathroom in the 1960s. Neil and Jewell Kidd’s Grocery and living quarters, with Rock Creek flowing behind it, provided a comfortable home for the couple and their five children: Joyce, Bob, Lindell, Billy Jay, and Jack.
Neil passed away in 1957 leaving Jewell to operate the store by herself until the late 1980s. When Jewell was no longer able to manage the store, she leased the business for a few years to Gene Coffey. The store finally closed in 1993.
Last weekend (July 3, 2021), after nearly thirty years, Jewell Kidd’s Grocery and Deli celebrated its grand reopening under the excited, watchful eyes of two of Neil and Jewell’s daughter-in-laws, Reba Kidd (Lindell) and Charlotta (Jack.)
Reba and Lot (as Charlotta is nicknamed), along with family and friends, spent days getting the store ready for business. The ladies say the store’s reopening is a tribute to Jewell, Neil, their family, and the community of Cooperative.
“This store is Jewell and Neil’s legacy,” Lot said lovingly.
Reba still resides in the store’s living quarters which she shared with her late husband and Jewell’s son, Lindell. Reba and Lindell raised their own children on the banks of Rock Creek surrounded by memories of Neil and Jewell. Reba noted part of the inspiration to reopen the store resulted from folks passing by on their way to and from Rock Creek, Hemlock Grove, and Great Meadow.
“Whenever we were sitting on the front porch, so many people would just stop by,” Reba explained. “They would ask if we were open for business and ask for something to drink. Even though we weren’t a store, I would go in the house and get them whatever they wanted.”
The store has many displays including a military display and an Elvis display honoring Jewell’s son, Lindell, who served in combat in Vietnam. Since Lindell passed away several years ago, Reba wanted one corner of the store to honor her husband.
“Lindell’s uniform is there just like it was when he pulled it off,” Reba said. “And Lindell loved anything Elvis.”
When touring the store, visitors immediately travel back to a simpler time-a time marked by faith, family, friends, and community. Visitors can look around the store and see how common sense, hard work, and community prevailed back in the day. Ingenuity is evident in the hooks and nails driven deeply into the store’s ceiling decades ago. The hooks and nails were used to secure lines of wire or twine to make a display area for clothing on sale in the store. A sense of community and compassion is shown in the display of Doc Simpson’s medical ledger which meticulously details each of the physician’s transactions and depicts routine doctor visits (including medication) costing as little as $3.00 and $5.00 each. One page of Dr. Simpson’s ledger shows him earning less than $20 in one day and allowing his patients to charge half of the day’s earnings.
Of course, in addition to the memorabilia and displays, anyone who visits the store can hear lots of interesting stories about Jewell and the past. Reba and Lot love sharing stories from the “good ‘ole” days and value the importance of keeping history alive for the younger generation.
“We’ve always tried to teach our children and grandchildren about our family,” Lot shared. “It’s important to know where you come from so you know your history and your morals.”
The reopening of Jewell Kidd’s Grocery and Deli was a success as folks from all parts visited and enjoyed the free RC Cola and chocolate moon pie that were part of Reba and Lot’s grand reopening day promotion. Descendants of Jewell and Neil also visited to spend a day at the store reminiscing about family from the past and enjoying family of the present.
Jewell Kidd’s Grocery and Deli caters to picnickers, horseback riders, campers, hikers, hunters, and anglers by offering up chips, drinks, candy bars, and other staples. For those hoping to pull in a dinner of freshly caught trout from “The Creek,” there’s plenty of canned whole-kernel corn for bait.
In a few weeks, Reba and Lot plan to prepare one hot meal per day on weekends-a blue plate special kind of meal.
“We don’t cook Chinese or Mexican,” Lot said with a grin. “Reba and I cook rough grub…fried potatoes, pinto beans, macaroni with cheese, and the like.”
The ladies already prepare delicious sandwiches-turkey, ham, and of course the “Jewell Kidd Special Bologna Sandwich” made with an extra, extra thick slice of bologna, cheese, onion, tomato, mayonnaise, and (it’s a secret!) saltine crackers on light bread. (As Reba says, the saltines are strategically placed between one of the slices of bread and the slice of tomato “to soak up the tomato juice.”)
Yes, pair up a Jewell Kidd Special Bologna Sandwich with an RC Cola, moon pie, and chips, and you’ve got fine dining on the banks of Rock Creek.
For Reba and Lot, the reopening of Jewell’s Grocery was and will continue to be a labor of love.
“It hasn’t been just me, Reba, and family though,” Lot said of the helpers involved in reopening the store. “Everyone who lives up and down this hollow has pitched in to help.”
Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me. After all, that’s the Rock Creek way.