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Oxford loses its friendly neighborhood grocer



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Charles Drumheller (left), who owned the Oxford IGA from 1972-91, died last week at the age of 83. He’s survived by his wife of 64 years, Virginia, or “Chic,” as she’s affectionately known to many folks. (click for larger version)
December 14, 2011 - For nearly 20 years, Oxford residents knew Charles Drumheller as their friendly neighborhood grocer.

Sadly, Drumheller, who went by Charlie or Chuck, passed away on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. He was 83.

Many remember him as the owner of the Oxford IGA store, which used to be located at Washington and Broadway streets on the site of what is now Oxford Bank's parking lot.

Drumheller spent an impressive 47 years in the grocery business. As a 15-year-old high school student, he started working in a meat department during World War II.

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That job taught Drumheller everything from how to cut meat to the inner workings of the grocery business in general. It was more than just a part-time job. It really became something of an apprenticeship for Drumheller.

Working his way up the ladder, Drumheller became the meat manager at the Kroger store where he worked. Over the next 15 years, he continued to move up and around in the Kroger organization at various stores throughout the Detroit area.

Eventually, he was promoted to store manager, a position he held during his last five years with Kroger.

His reputation and knowledge as a manager resulted in him being asked to help reorganize a bankrupt independent grocery store in the City of Wayne around 1962.

He successfully got that store back on its feet, which led to his decision to purchase the Mid Oak Market in Inkster and begin a fruitful career as an independent grocer.

Shortly after he bought the Inkster store, the Wayne store he helped reorganize burned to the ground. The owner of the site asked Drumheller if he would be interested in opening a second grocery store there should a new building be constructed.

Drumheller jumped at the opportunity to build a new store from the ground up. He designed the interior from scratch and made improvements over the old store.

In 1970, he decided he'd had enough of his two urban stores, both of which were IGAs, and sold them.

For a while, Drumheller tried to relax and lead a life of leisure, but the grocery business was in his blood.

Eventually, he was contacted by Super Foods and asked if he wanted to purchase the 8,000-square-foot IGA store in downtown Oxford.

Not only did he buy the store in 1972, he decided to move his family here.

Soon, the Oxford IGA became well-known for its superior cuts of meat, hard-to-find items and willingness to go the extra mile when it came to meeting customers' needs.

It was the epitome of the small, neighborhood grocery store and a refreshing alternative to the impersonal big chains.

His wife Virginia, known to friends as "Chic," helped run the store by doing the books and chatting with customers. Married in Allen Park, he and Virginia were together for 64 years.

Being a small town, the IGA customers became like family to the Drumhellers and they always particularly enjoyed that aspect of their business.

In 1991, Drumheller sold the store and decided to finally retire from the business that gave him so much joy and provided his family with such a good living.

He and his wife moved to Lapeer, but they continued to stay involved in Oxford and remain close with friends here.

"It's been so very heartwarming and rewarding to have friends like Chic and Charlie for so many years," said Oxford resident James A. Sherman, Sr. "They are such wonderful people."

Over the years, the Drumhellers loved to travel, visiting Las Vegas, Spain, the Riviera and Monaco. They actually met, mingled and drank with the Monacan royal family during a tennis tournament consisting of Hollywood stars such as comedian Bill Cosby, who spoke to Chic.

Being an avid golfer, Drumheller was a member of the Oxford Hills Golf and Country Club along with the Lapeer Country Club.

Drumheller is survived by his wife Virginia; children Linda Ogger, of Lapeer, and Tim (Mary Lynne) Drumheller, of Grand Rapids; grandchildren Stacy (Chris) May and Justin Drumheller; great-grandson Patrick May; and brother Jerry (Bev) Drumheller.

He was preceded in death by his parents George and Lucy Drumheller and sisters Lillian Petrosky, Phyllis Mayhon and Barbara Taylor.

A funeral was held Monday, Dec. 12, 2011 at Muir Brothers Funeral Home in Lapeer.

Rev. Todd D. Smith officiated.

Interment will be at Ridgelawn Memorial Cemetery in Oxford Village.

Memorials may be made to the Humane Society.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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