Say farewell to Cook's Market
Gary Baum expects to have tears in his eyes when he closes the doors at Cook's Market in Greensburg on Saturday.
“I'm sure I will,” Baum said. “It's happened to me already today.”
Baum plans to close the landmark sandwich shop of 27 years for good that day, his business the victim of changing times.
The ready-made sandwiches, soup cookies and Dean Martin music that always was playing in the shop along South Pennsylvania Avenue will all be gone.
“That's all I've played for 27 years — Dean Martin,” said Baum, who placed a life-sized cutout of the crooner in the shop. “I thought they were the most talented group of people there was — the Rat Pack. Dean Martin has always been a favorite. And it's relaxing music.”
Baum said he noticed a decline in customers over the last year or two. He said a struggling economy and changes in people's eating habits are to blame.
“I feel it was the economy, and you don't see people out on the streets at lunch,” he said. “You used to see groups of people at lunch. Now it's only two or three.
“A lot of them have laptop computers, and they don't have to be in the office all the time. They can be on the road,” Baum added.
Operational costs went up, too, he said.
Baum bought Cook's Market from Bill Cook and kept the name. Before that, a butcher shop occupied the narrow space in a row of businesses near the Westmoreland County Courthouse.
“Over the past quarter century, my family and I have continued the tradition of high-quality, personal service unique to the ‘mom and pop' stores many of us grew up with,” Baum said.
Through the years, he formed close ties with the regulars — construction workers, judges and teachers — who strolled in for some chicken noodle soup, an Italian roast beef sandwich or some gobs.
“We've developed a lot of friends and associates,” he said. “I had a guy today so choked up, he said, ‘I'm going to the church to light a candle for the business.' ”
His wife, Elizabeth, helped out. Son Gary, who often worked there, took another job about a year ago, when the future of the sandwich shop was looking bleak.
Baum thanked his loyal customers and said the decision to close was one he pondered for quite a while.
“I thought about it several months,” he said. “I just find it hard, at 61 years of age, to have to be out looking for a job.”
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or [email protected].