Our class was going on a field trip and the hoagie I got for the day away was the first time I visited the Mifflinburg Sub Shop. I am guessing it was about 1975, and the hoagie was so darn good I just had to keep going back. Besides the great subs, where else on planet earth could you get a Marty Muffin?
On the usual visit, there was a counter full of patrons eating sandwiches or just sipping coffee and trading barbs with each other and especially the owners. Whatever was going on in the Downs' household was pretty much carried to the shop. Many times Betty would ask those sitting around the counter what their opinions were and they would chime in. We never really kept track, but one time, we would side with Tom, the next time we went with Betty.
Tom, a Vietnam vet, proudly served and came home to be a model citizen, businessman, husband and father. A picture of Betty was on the wall, so even after her passing, she was still part of the shop. One of my favorite memories was a Saturday some Notre Dame fans stopped in, and it led to Betty making a bet with them. Penn State won that game, and the Irish fans never returned to pay off their end of the bet.
I still find it kind of funny how Betty joked about how Notre Dame fans could never be trusted to pay off bets, considering she was a very devoted Catholic.
I stopped one time to find Ann Marie running the shop and daughter Erica complaining she wanted her toys. I said to Erica, "Well, you could help here in the shop even if it was to get a broom and do some sweeping." I got the meanest look from this toddler, and she turned and said to Anne Marie, "Mom, I don't want this guy to come in here EVER again."
You were never just a customer at the Mifflinburg Sub Shop, you were really treated like family. Evidence of that hung on the wall as pictures of customers that had passed away were displayed for all to see. I got an email from a family member recently that the final day for the shop was going to be that weekend. So, camera in hand, I made that one last trip to the sub shop. It was so wonderful to see both daughters Ann Marie and Marty behind the counter, grandchildren Michael and Erica sitting with the customers. I would be lying if I said there weren't a few tears being choked back, but yet smiles abounded. My life is so much richer for having known the Downs family, and they will forever be friends.
Hoagie shops come and go, but there never again will be a Tom Hoagie.