GREENVILLE — The sandwiches sold in one of the local restaurants are well-known across the nation. Yes, it’s The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shoppe on North Broadway.
The family-owned shoppe came into existence in 1934 and is still as popular today as it was then. Of course, the prices have gone up in those 83 years but business is always bustling.
According its website, “Living so close to a Darke County institution whose reputation lives up to its billing does have a drawback or two. Becoming spoiled by having ready access to the diner’s slightly-sweet loose-meat sandwiches, creamy shakes, and Coca-Colas over crushed ice that—for some inscrutable reason taste better than Coca-Cola anywhere else—is a drawback one must bear while calling Greenville home. The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shoppe is a destination diner known to inspire cravings far beyond the confines of its brick exterior.”
Louise Maher established the restaurant with the help of her family. Brothers, Tom and Gene Maher, played a crucial role in all aspects of the restaurant throughout their lives as well as all family members who have ever worked helping support the business.
The business has remained in the Maher, Koontz and Trimble families.
Mark Koontz of Greenville, son of Jim Koontz Jr., who is the son of Jim Koontz Sr., works a full-time job elsewhere, but still works at the Maid-Rite in the summertime. The “Big Jim” sandwich that is sold there was named after his grandfather.
“All of the family has worked there. I’ve also worked there at one time or another,” Mark said. “That’s the biggest reason for our success. It’s still is a family owned and operated business. Our employees make us successful with their hard work and dedication.”
Dr. David Trimble, a local podiatrist, is current owner. He “inherited” it from the family.
“He is retired, but is still active in it [podiatry],” Mark said.
According to the business website, “Such is the popularity of the quirky diner that many a storyteller in the area has tried to claim that an ownership share was in the family somewhere deep in his lineage. Whether it’s this one’s great-grandmother or that one’s long-lost uncle, there are enough supposed former Maid-Rite owners to account for dozens of actual restaurants. It seems that everyone wants a piece of the little brick landmark.”
Mark said that famous people have been known to patronize the business, including some Cincinnati Reds and Bengals players in days gone by.
The drive-thru, he said, was formed when the building opened in 1934.
“In the summer, a lot of customers frequent us,” he said. “We have a lot of loyal customers.”
In recent years, a shelter was created off the parking lot at the back of the business for customers to be seated while dining there.
The current location has been the Maid-Rite’s only location in the county. Mark said there was a different building there, but they tore it down and constructed over the top of it with a new building.
On the menu are the Maid-Rite and Cheese-Rite (the most popular sandwiches) as well as egg salad, ham and cheese, the Big Jim (a Maid-Rite with ham and cheese), potato chips, milk shakes, soft drinks and soft-serve ice cream.
Contrary to popular belief, beer is not used in the making/steaming of the Maid-Rite sandwich.
“We never did use beer,” Mark said.
He said it was Louise Maher’s recipe that has been used over the years.
“It has all kinds of flavors in it,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t use ketchup. Our ingredients complement each other with mustard pickles and onions.”
When asked if the Maid-Rite sends its sandwiches to other states, he said they did not.
“Customers buy them, pack them with dry ice and mail them to other people,” he said.
Now, everyone knows what’s inside the shoppe, but the real tradition can be seen on the exterior of the building. Yes, gum and coins have been placed on the walls over the years.
“I can’t really be specific when people started putting their gum out there,” Mark said. “But, I can definitely say that it started by the back door. People would come in and didn’t want to drop their gum on the ground so they stuck it to the wall with pennies and other change and sometimes later bottle caps.”
“Or maybe it’s that everyone wants to leave a little piece of themselves behind at The Maid-Rite,” said the historical piece on the website. “Covering nearly every available surface of the building are thousands of wads of chewing gum. It’s common opinion that a new visitor can’t really said to have been initiated until she has contributed to the multi-colored mosaic of gum. Lovers have even been known to declare their romantic involvement by spelling out one another’s initials separated by an arrow-pierced heart in strategically placed wads of gum.”
The love affair with the Maid-Rite, as its historical account goes, is no one-way relationship. It is a strong member of the Darke County community and supports dozens of local initiatives each year.
“You don’t have to be local to love The Maid-Rite,” the historical account indicated. “But being local—and having one’s childhood memories tangled up in that little brick building covered in gum—does make it more likely that the restaurant will take on a significance that’s reminiscent of family. For the locals who move away, it’s not an overstatement to say that a return visit home won’t be considered complete until The Maid-Rite is checked off the list.”
This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.