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'302': Ada's overlooked community gem

Like Gossard, Bonnie (pictured), one of 302's popular cashiers, also contributes to the store's homey qualities. Pulling warm meatloaf out of the oven, Bonnie prepares to serve the day's homemade lunch special to a customer. (photo/ Kaitlin Durbin)

Nestled comfortably between Rich gas station and Sunseekers tanning salon is the 302 Carry-Out.

Walking up to “302”, as it is most often called, seems underwhelming. The parking lot lies gray and crumbling, badly in need of a sharp blacktop makeover, and the building itself is nothing remarkable. Tan tiles neatly line its face of four colossal windows, windows that are littered with neon beer signs, illuminating the call to Ada nightlife.

Upon opening the door, a small tinkling bell ushers customers into the building’s interior. Three long linoleum aisles are packed with snack foods, “the coldest beer in town” and one giant cherry slushy machine.

But making their way to the check-out counter, it soon becomes apparent why customers keep coming back to the Carry- Out, and it's not the three-tiered candy display. It's Mona Gossard.

Mona is an Ada native and has proudly owned and operated her small business for nearly three decades. A blonde, spectacled woman in her mid-50s, she stands tall and radiates spunk and sincerity.

Although she sports a deep tan and French-tipped acrylic nails, there is nothing fake about the care she displays toward her customers, be they town resident “regulars” or college students hailing from Ohio Northern.

Ada resident “Four Pack Jack,” so named for his weekly purchase of four boxes of Montclair Lights, comes to the Carry-Out weekly, because “no one is as sweet as my girl [Mona].”

There is a sense of kinship that can be discovered at 302 and Mona’s relentless bantering with the customers seems to show it.

Sacking up groceries and running credit cards so masterfully it seems she could accomplish the tasks with her eyes blindfolded, she inquires after friends’ ever-growing families, their work endeavors, even a student’s latest classes, never seeming to miss a beat.

“How’s that baby doin’, Marlene? Still teething? You know where the rum is, hun!”

“Let me throw in a few slices of our new cheese for you to take home— no, no, on the house! You tell him I said get that leg better.”

“How you doin’, Stretch?! Lemme guess: A five-dollar bingo and a strawberry cigar?”

Through Harvest Festival barbeques and sweet corn sales, Christmas Eve specials and birthday wishes, Mona has cultivated a feeling of community in this village through her small-scale establishment—a togetherness that seems to have disappeared in the bright lights of super Wal-Marts with self-serve check-outs.

“We keep people comin’ back here because we treat ‘em like family,” Mona rasps, picking up a box of her favorite cigarettes. “And some of ‘em, hell, most of ‘em are like family after all these years,” she gushes.

Smiling, she sips on a French-vanilla cappuccino and continues to “shoot the sh*t” with the people who keep her in business and keep her in happiness.

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