When John Brower moved to Holt in 1954, he immediately entered into the frozen food business. The initial business was known as Jane’s Barbecue, named for Brower’s beloved wife Jane. Jane’s Barbecue operated out of their home on Dean Street in Holt and sold ready to heat and serve items. It wasn’t long before Jane’s Barbecue outgrew the space on Dean Street.
In 1955, Brower purchased the food locker space at the corner of Aurelius Road and DeCamp Street in Holt, formerly Fiedler's Food Locker. The new building had a commercial refrigeration system, something Brower needed to run the business. The commercial space was necessary as the business grew and Jane’s Barbecue was sold across the state of Michigan. Jane’s had distributors in Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. There were also Jane's Barbecue brokers in Grand Rapids, Detroit, and in the thumb. Brower had the opportunity to take the Jane’s Barbecue business to the national level – an opportunity that he declined in order to keep his family intact and local.
With that decision, Brower kept Jane’s Barbecue on a small scale. In 1960, Jane’s Barbecue got into the retail business. The 1960 switch into retail also came with a new name: Brower’s Foods. The business grew again in 1977 with the addition of the hardware portion of Brower’s. John Brower said the business was modeled after an old general store – a pattern which worked out well as the business lasted nearly sixty years in entirety.
Brower’s Food & Hardware closed in 2014 when the family sold the business. The building still stands at 2102 North Aurelius Road in Holt with extensive renovations and the new name, Holt Fine Wine and Spirits.
Photos courtesy of the Brower family. The old signs (pictured below) were painted by local artist Sterling Silver Alf. They were lost when the store closed and new owners renovated.
Orville Hitchens came to Holt in the late 1930s and purchased the building at 2006 Cedar Street in 1939. He immediately opened up his own drug store. Hitchens Pharmacy persisted through the years and remained in business in the same building until 1997. It was a staple in the community and Mr. Hitchens was known as "Holt's Favorite Pharmacist" for nearly 60 years while he owned and operated the drug store. Over the years it became a family operation with his wife and children participating in the shop and pharmacy's operation.
The pharmacy closed in 1997 and the building was converted into Sweet Mike's, a soda fountain and gift shop in 1999. Sweet Mike's closed in 2006. The building has since been dedicated as the "Hitchens Building" and it is now home to Biggby Coffee.
Tony DeRosa came to Holt in 1950 and purchased the building at 1959 Cedar St., he opened DeRosa’s Grocery Store at that location, the business transformed and evolved over the years - the family eventually sold the store around 2012.
In 1962 the DeRosas built the building at 1957 Cedar St., which originally housed Rosario’s American and Italian Cuisine. The building would be home to various other businesses over the years after Rosario's closed, most notably Sammy's Paddock Lounge, and currently Charlie's Bar and Grill.
The area at 1963 Cedar St., was home to J.D.’s Dairy Delight for many years, prior to that it was an A&W. It was owned by the DeRosa family, it changed hands within the family in the 1970s and in 1990 the building was replaced with the current building and the name was changed to Sweet Sensations.
Photos courtesy of the DeRosa family.