History Of Former JMH Grocery Store Lives On In Tiny’s No. 5

Tracy Nowak, granddaughter of former JMH No. 5 grocery store owner, is the sous chef and kitchen manager for Tiny’s No. 5.

When Tracy Nowak came on as sous chef for Tiny Boxwood’s three years ago, she had no idea she would end up running a restaurant in the building that had been her grandfather’s grocery store.

Nowak’s grandparents, Rudy and Celestine Darilek, owned JMH No. 5 along with two other people for nearly 50 years. The store closed in 2007.

Landscape architecture firm Thompson + Hansen purchased the building in March of last year. The company also runs Tiny Boxwood’s on West Alabama Street and purchased the old JMH building with plans to start a second Tiny Boxwood’s restaurant.

The new restaurant is called Tiny’s No. 5 in honor of the former grocery store. The JMH No. 5 sign will be left in place on top of the building and painted the original colors.

“I was so excited to see it evolve into something,” said Nowak, who will be the kitchen manager and sous chef for Tiny’s No. 5.

Nowak said she used to drive by and wish someone would do something with the building. She said she cried when she found out Thompson + Hansen purchased it.

“It’s kind of like I grew up here,” she said.

Nowak, who is one of 35 grandchildren, started working at her grandfather’s store when she was 14 years old.

The store was basically a family run business and there were often eight grandkids working in the store at one time, Nowak said.

Rudy Darilek, who still lives in West U with his wife Celestine, would greet customers by the door.

Every time one of the grandchildren would come into the store he would let them pick out a piece of candy and pay for it, even though he owned the store, Nowak said.

Nowak’s memories of the store include a “big scale” that all of her cousins would play on.

“It wasn’t used for anything,” she said. “It was for us.”

The grocery store was known for its charge accounts; residents could come in and purchase items without paying and the store would bill them at the end of the week.

Nowak said she was often tasked with tallying up each family’s charge account for billing.

A running joke in the family is the phrase “$2.19” because every time Nowak or one of her cousins asked their grandfather how much something cost he would always answer, $2.19.”

The store also had an intercom system and shoppers would often hear one of the grandkids making chicken noises, Nowak said.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “Definitely sad to see it go.”

The JMH store was originally owned by James Huffington. Rudy Darilek worked for Huffington when he was 18 years old.

When Rudy Darilek was away fighting in World War II, Huffington wrote to him, asking him to take over the store when he returned from the war.

Nowak still has the letter, dated Sept. 4, 1945. To view the letter, click here.

Rudy Darilek, along with Jody Hass and Victor Stanek, purchased the store from Huffington in 1948.

Remnants of the old grocery store still remain in Tiny’s No. 5.

The brick walls are from the original building, as well as most of the floor. The outline of the cash registers is still visible on the floor of what will be Tiny’s private dining room.

Nowak has three brothers, but only two of them worked at the JMH grocery store. Nowak said she hopes her younger brother will be able to pick up a shift at Tiny Boxwood’s from time to time.

“That way all of us could technically have worked at JMH,” she said.

Nowak said it means a lot to her grandparents and family that she will be working at the former JMH No. 5. She said she feels like her family’s legacy is living on through her.

Bellaire News Staff

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