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Louie's P&R: The name's the same but new young owners are bringing a fresh perspective

  • P&R employee Tammy Sanders, left, greets regular customers Sydney Allen and her mom, Stephanie, at right.

    P&R employee Tammy Sanders, left, greets regular customers Sydney Allen and her mom, Stephanie, at right.
    Holly Kee photo

  • A variety of fresh meat, including store-made salad meats, is always ready for customers who line up daily.

    A variety of fresh meat, including store-made salad meats, is always ready for customers who line up daily.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Sitting on the corner of Walnut Street near the railroad tracks, Louie's P&R has been a staple of Herrin for half a century.

    Sitting on the corner of Walnut Street near the railroad tracks, Louie's P&R has been a staple of Herrin for half a century.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Julie Christ hopes the neighborhood store wants the place to be where people just come to visit, as well as shop.

    Julie Christ hopes the neighborhood store wants the place to be where people just come to visit, as well as shop.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Stepping into Louie's P&R in Herrin is like stepping back to a time when every neighborhood had its own grocery store.

    Stepping into Louie's P&R in Herrin is like stepping back to a time when every neighborhood had its own grocery store.
    Holly Kee photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 1/24/2020, 1:31 AM

Louie's P&R has been a staple market for Herrin and the surrounding communities for more than a century.

Its new owners, Julie and Aaron Christ, intend to make sure that doesn't change.

Established in the late 1890s, Louie's was originally called D&R Market after principle stockholders Frank Detomasi and Ernest Ruggeri.

"My grandmother's maiden name was Ruggeri," said Julie, sitting the restaurant area of the market on Wednesday afternoon.

The market was renamed "Louie's P&R" after Louie Gualdoni bought it about 50 years ago and then passed it to his son, Tony and wife Alisa.

On Dec. 2, 2019, the Christ family took over.

"It's really crazy," said Julie. "My grandfather owned the feed store next door. I literally grew up on this block."

Julie and Aaron married in 2001 and moved to St. Louis. It didn't take. Now she's a stay-at-home mom in Herrin, taking care of two sons, Cameron, a freshman at Herrin High School, and Cooper, a sixth-grader at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

"We never thought we'd be back and now my kids are going to the same schools that I did," she said.

When Aaron accepted a job at Intertape Polymer Group (formerly Tuck Tape) in Carbondale, Julie said they used the opportunity to make some even bigger changes.

"I thought if we're going to be back home around family and friends that can help us with the kids, why not do something?" she said. "So, we bought Louie's P&R."

Taking over the business during the holidays is what Julie calls a "baptism by fire."

"I learned it all in December," she said with a grin, brushing her bangs aside.

She is quick to credit the employees -- the Christs kept all of Gualdoni's employees -- for keeping things running smoothly.

"They are the ones teaching me," she said. "This place could not run without them. They're a well-oiled wheel."

Those employees include Michelle Vaughn, Tammy Sanders, Darren Futch, and Carol Wallace.

"They've been right with us," she said. "They've not skipped a beat."

Julie said her new duties and dealing with vendors are a change for her.

"I used to call my mom and say, 'I'm making a pot roast ... do I want a shoulder or a butt?'" she said. "Now, I'm doing the ordering."

Julie said they want to be a "go to" place for Herrin and surrounding communities. "We want to know what people are looking for, what they need," she said. "We can get our hands on it."

Julie also said that there was a lot of concern from customers when the change took place.

"People were asking if we would still be doing certain things and carrying certain items," she said.

That answer is "yes."

"We are keeping everything and even adding a few things of our own," she said.

One thing they've added is cooking meat, like pork steaks, that people can pick up.

"We found a need for that," Julie said. "We added chicken and dumplings."

Julie said they plan to add more groceries and even delivery for larger orders.

She said they are encouraging lunch customers at the deli to call in their order around 10 a.m.

"We can keep the sandwich fresh or hot," she said, adding that preparing the sandwich in advance can reduce what is often a very long line of people who may not have much time for lunch.

Julie said they also want to get involved in the community, especially with the schools.

The "family-owned" identity of the business is important to the Christs, which their sons are on board with.

"I like walking here after school to eat or just hang out with friends," said Cooper, who says his favorite item is the hot salami sandwich.

"I think this will be fun as a family thing," said Cameron. "We'll get closer and we'll help the town of Herrin succeed."

Julie said that she's sure more will be added as the family gets more acquainted with the daily operation of the business.

"I just have to figure it out," she said with a grin, waving to yet another customer who calls a greeting to an old friend who is back home.