There are people that you meet who leave a lasting impression. They don’t need to be a relative or teacher, they can be someone you met casually but repeatedly, yet they are firmly engraved in your psyche. Two such people in Hampton Bays were Lenny and Erwin Thompson, brothers and owners of Thompson’s Supermarket. Call it Food Town or call it Key Foods – you can even call it Sunbeam! – it was always Thompson’s.
Why did they make such an impression? Good question, that. This was a local store run by local men who hired locals. Lots and lots of locals. It’s been said that they were personally responsible for putting dozens, if not hundreds, of locals through college. Once they hired you, you were hired pretty much until you didn’t want to be any more. Friends worked there. Families worked there.
Personally, during this author’s tenure there, they worked with two aunts, two cousins, seemingly a good third of her high school class, and many friends. More than a few employees met their spouse while working there. Summer or winter, after school or vacation, you were welcome to work. Home from college for a few weeks? Come on back. Thompsons was always loyal to their employees and their employees to them.
One such employee was Cal Carpenter. Cal was head bagger and kept everyone up to date on the baseball stats, when he wasn’t directing traffic or leading the Memorial Day or Fire Department Carnival parade.
The brothers were two different personalities. Irwin, being the quiet man with the clipboard, was often found in the aisles or the office, while Lenny worked the front end, cracking jokes and talking to customers. If a seagull flies over the ocean, what kind of gull flies over the bay? Why, a bay-gull, of course! Yes, that was a Lenny joke.
They supported their community with their generosity. It wasn’t uncommon to find children’s artwork being displayed, raffle tickets for local events were on sale, ice cream cones were given for good report cards. There was a mitten tree at Christmas. The Cancer Society was given great support by Lenny and his lovely wife Norma. They were sterling members of our community.
Irwin purchased potatoes from local farmers. At various times there was a snackbar as well as a floral dept. The deli featured homemades salads and soups made by Aggie and Chickie – amongst others. Mr. & Mrs. Ley, then followed by Mr. Wilde, baked the most mouth-watering doughnuts. They were a taste sensation not easily forgotten!
The building was the original store started by Leander Squires, then owned by Max Greenberg – whose service to the community was also legendary – and ultimately purchased by the Thompsons. In 1973 there was a fire late on a Thursday in the oldest part of the building on the second floor. By Saturday the doors were open for business as usual at 7:30 am.
Lenny and Irwin are both gone now. But their kindness and friendship will last in our community’s memory for decades.