SIDNEY — In its heyday, Sidney News Stand and Bookstore was a place where a person could buy a $35 million lottery ticket, drop off their road kill and get their shoes shined.
Kathryn Rees worked almost 40 years running the Sidney News Stand and Bookstore with her husband Sam Rees. Today, a patch of grass is all that marks where their business used to sit next to Bunny’s Pharmacy. While the building has been gone for a decade, Kathryn remembers how much it once meant to the local community.
The Sidney News Stand was started by Charles P. Rodgers, a Sidney native. He built a lean-to on the sidewalk on the north side of the Fry building, which was located at the southeast corner of Main and Poplar Streets in 1878.
In 1966 Sam Rees, along with a group of other investors, purchased the Sidney News Stand. It had moved into a small building located in what is now the parking lot on the north side of the alley, behind Chase Bank. In 1966 it was known as Citizens Baughman National Bank. In 1971 Sam purchased the Sidney News Stand from the rest of the investors. He then purchased and remodeled the Daisy Cafe that was located between Bunny’s Pharmacy and the old Taylor Building. Lastly, Sam moved everything from the old newsstand into the new location.
The Reeses hit the ground running. They started selling a large quantity of books and eventually changed the name of the store to Sidney News Stand and Bookstore. In 1972 they became the agent for the Greyhound Bus depot in Sidney. Six buses would come by every day of the week. The buses would also pick up freight left at the store by various local companies.
Kathryn said most of the bus drivers were good, but some weren’t. One bus driver lied to her about not having any space left in his bus’ bins for some heavy boxes that needed to be shipped. He simply didn’t want to carry them. When Kathryn discovered an empty bin on the bus, she looked the driver in the eyes and said sarcastically, “Now, do you think you can drive that bus?” When the diver came back through town he talked to Sam and asked, “Who is that little woman who works here? I sure in the Hell would hate to meet her in a dark alley.” Kathryn said of the incident, “I made my commitment to my customers that their freight would get to Detroit.”
Another day a Greyhound bus driver came into the Sidney News Stand and Bookstore with his hands covered in blood. He had hit and killed a deer. Not knowing what to do with the carcass, he had thrown it into one of his bus’ storage bins, and brought it with him to the store. Sam told the man he would find someone who could utilize the deer.
The Reeses never knew what would be coming into their shop on any given day. One day it was a rock. Sam had gone into the shop by himself and was looking out the front when he saw a man across the street throw a big rock through one of the stores front display windows. Sam chased after the man until several other men showed up and started to punch him. Luckily a group of National Guardsmen were patrolling the area. The National Guardsmen shouted at the men assaulting Sam, and they ran off. Sam was not seriously hurt, but Kathryn has no doubt Sam would have been seriously injured without any intervention. The National Guard was brought to Sidney at that time to maintain order, because employees at Stolle were striking as they tried to form a union.
The times were changing, and 1974 saw a lot of advancements for the Sidney News Stand and Bookstore. The business was first in town to start selling Ohio lottery tickets. In 1997 the news stand sold a ticket worth $35 million to life-long Sidney resident, Virginia “Maxine” Kauffman. Kauffman split the money with her daughter and housemate Myrna “June” Kauffman. The Sidney News Stand and Bookstore received $10,000 for selling the winning ticket.
The Reeses were also on the cutting edge when they acquired an exciting new piece of technology called the fax machine. A story in the Sidney Daily News detailed how customers could utilize the store’s new fax machine to send correspondence with the use of telephone lines.
In 1974 the Reeses’ son, David Rees, moved his shoe shine business into the back of the Sidney News Stand and Bookstore. David was only 12-years-old at the time, but had already been running the stand at its original location for over a year at the intersection of Ohio Avenue and Poplar Street.
Also in 1974 they added a 40 foot, two floor addition to the back of the store. The stores expansion continued when they purchased the adjoining building that formerly was Reed Jewelers.
Kathryn and Sam continued to sell school books from their Sidney home to local schools until 2018. At that time, her salesman Greg Wilt and his wife Priscilla Wilt, took over that part of the business.
In 2010 Kathryn closed Sidney’s only bookstore. Kathryn said, “I was just getting tired,” and wanted to retire. For 132 years the Sidney News Stand was an important part of Shelby County. In 2011 Kathryn cried as she watched an excavator tear down the building that had been an important part of her life for so many years. It was torn down due to its proximity to the Taylor building next door which had been declared too hazardous to let stand.
The land where the Sidney News Stand and Bookstore stood is now a patch of grass owned by realtor Gay Smith.
As Kathryn managed the newsstand over the years she never forgot the old adage, “The customer is always right.” Kathryn said, “We had a very good relationship with all our customers.”
Some big box stores in Sidney still sell a few books and newspapers. Kathryn calls these stores “walk ins.” The customer walks in grabs a book, and walks out. Kathryn said, “There is no intercommunication” like in a mom and pop store. Intercommunication is the action of engaging in two-way conversation. Kathryn would personally lead a customer to the book section they were looking for, help them find their book and suggest other books they might enjoy in the same genre. In these big box stores Kathryn says there is no interaction between the owner and the customer.
The empty grass lot where the Sidney News Stand and Bookstore once stood is a good metaphor for a service that was lost, and never replaced. While people can still buy books in Sidney, there is no smiling local owner, that already knows their customers name. There is no Intercommunication as Kathryn would say. And none of today’s stores will help dispose of a dead deer.