In 1941, 2 entire blocks of houses were built (with the exception of 3 houses, built in 1926, 1944, and 1966) neighboring Glenhurst Golf Course to the west and 6 Mile Rd to the north. It was only a matter of time before the need for nearby shopping would arise. Just across 6 Mile, a small brick retail strip was completed in 1948. The timing couldn’t have been better. Although there were a smattering of homes behind the building, within 3 years the rest of the subdivision had been filled in with new homes. The majority of the Township was under construction and Redford’s population was exploding.
One business that opened in that small retail strip was a five and dime called Lola Valley Drugs. Owner & Pharmacist Michael Onofrey (known as “Mr. Mike”), who opened the doors with $6 in his pocket, sold quite the combination of items, as seen in this ad from the 1949 Township directory:
It was truly a family-run business. Mr. Onofrey’s wife, Hilda, also worked at the store, as did their 3 children. The oldest, Michael III, kept the store tidy and crated empty bottles to prepare them for pickup. Only 14 months younger, twins Sherry & Carol also did their part. Sherry worked at the penny candy counter and Carol worked at the ice cream counter, where a single scoop was 5 cents and a double scoop was 7 cents. Carol describes it as a “neighborhood hangout…straight out of Happy Days.”
If you’re like me, you’re thinking “What an awesome childhood!” Of course now the siblings look back and have fond memories of the store, but at the time it didn’t seem as fun. The store had 17 chrome stools that lined the L-shaped counter. Mr. Mike roped off the 3 stools along the front window for the kids. Each day after school Michael III, Sherry, and Carol would do their homework here, have their snack, and eat dinner.
You could say the Onofrey kids grew up in that store – an experience that most people don’t have. Two enclosed wooden telephone booths in the front corner of the store also doubled as an area where the kids could have some privacy.
“We could read the comic books as long as we didn’t wrinkle them, because he had to sell them. So I would take my ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ comic book and I’d go sit in the bottom of the phone booth and close it.” -Sherry
The side of the store with the phone booths also housed the candy counter and cigar counter. The opposite side included the soda fountain with the stools at the counter. The ice cream station was in the middle of the store, while the liquor and pharmacy area was near the back. Mr. Mike also delivered prescriptions and extended credit to his customers until payday. A 48-hour photo processing service was available as well.
The kids did enjoy time away from the store. A favorite pastime of theirs was ice skating at Lola Valley. They also liked visiting Detroit. Equipped with a brown bag lunch, Carol & Sherry would get on a bus at 5 Mile & Beech Daly and head downtown. They would sit along the Detroit River and eat their lunch, then swing into Hudson’s and Sanders before making the trip back home. Oh, the good ‘ole days!
Click on a family photo below for a full-size view and caption
When Mr. Mike experienced some health problems, the Onofrey’s sold the store and Redford Pizza moved into the space. He continued to work in a pharmacy as long as he could. After he passed away in 1968, Mrs. Onofrey sold their home, located at the corner of Keeler & Wakenden. The family shared a copy of the real estate listing card:
A huge thank you to Carol & Sherry for sharing their memories with us! What an honor to learn about the Onofrey family and the impact Lola Valley Drugs had in the community.
In part 2 of this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the businesses that neighbored the drug store, what the building looks like now, and the new businesses that are occupying the space.