I suspect every small hamlet has a couple of characters like “Pie Mack” and “Jew Mack, Jr.,” as they were affectionately known to the thousands of customers who visited their establishment Mack’s Cash and Carry grocery store on West Main Street in Lexington. “Jew Mack, Jr.” and his father, the original “Jew Mack,” both served as Mayor of Lexington. The senior Mack served in the late forties and early fifties and the son in the eighties. Both left their mark on the town.
Now, with the passing of Arthur “Pie” Mack, an era has sadly come to an end. “He was the last surviving old Lexington merchant on Main Street,” observed his longtime friend and banker Raymond Caughman, the founder and President of Lexington State Bank. “The Mack boys were one of a kind!”
You couldn’t speak about one without referring to the other. Even John Pellet, who is married to Arthur’s granddaughter Allison, referred to the pair as one. John noted that when he first met Arthur, he was standing on the Mack driveway. “Pie Mack” facetiously hollered out: “Throw that Yankee trash off my driveway!”
Moments later Arthur was embracing his granddaughter’s fiancé and welcoming him into the family. “From that moment on, I felt like I was his grandson,” observed Pellet.
Pie Mack and Jew Mack acted as surrogate fathers to me. My late mother Alice and my 92-year old Aunt Olga, affectionately known as “the mouth of the south,” (because she’s the information highway in the family) were the other two siblings, along with half sisters Carol Pellerin and the late Judy Mack.
Our family is not Jewish. We are of Lebanese descent. However, in the old deep, south you were one of three things — a white man, a black man or a Jew. We were too dark to fit in one group and too light to fit in the other, so the locals thought we were Jewish.
Pie Mack was the better athlete of the two Mack boys. He was recruited by the Philadelphia Phillies as a pitcher but later chose to attend Clemson College. He later returned to Lexington and opened a grocery store across the street from his brother, Eli, who was also a grocer.
Elias Mack, Sr. felt that having two grocery stores competing right there on Main Street would discourage the big chains from coming into town. For many years, it worked. While they were separate stores, they were actually one unit, sharing groceries with one another when one would run out of something.
For instance, when the moonshiners from Swansea and Pelion came to town, they would clean out one store of sugar, purchasing huge bales to make illegal moonshine whiskey. One brother would share his supply with the other.
Eventually, they merged their stores into the Little Giant Supermarket, also known as Mack’s Cash & Carry and moved to West Main where they operated for four decades. Eventually the chains came in and took over, but they still managed to compete by being the best meat market in the county.
I bagged groceries as a child and worked at the store until I was a teenager. Because I was the first male in the family to play sports, the Mack boys vicariously relived every game I played. They would actually close the store early on Friday night just to be able to watch me kick off at 8:00 p.m. at the old Lexington Stadium behind Hite’s Dairy Bar on West Main.
The next day, they would relive every play of the game with me and would brag to every customer that came in about my play. Before the day was done, you would have thought that I won the game on my own as the stories grew by the word.
That’s the kind of men they were, and they didn’t limit their praise just to me. Anyone who entered the store was greeted with open arms.
“Hey pal, how are you? We have some great steaks back there today! Go see ‘fat boy’ (Arthur’s nickname for Eli) and he’ll fix you up!”
Sadly, an era has ended, never to be replicated again. We’ll miss you Pie Mack.
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