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Not only did people come in for staples and supplies of all kinds, but they also lived where they worked; such was the nature of the pre-“super-duper store” neighborhood. “Like so many buildings in this neighborhood, people lived there,” he says. “Across the street there was a bakery and a shoe repair shop. There were lots of little businesses, and for every business, the person who ran that building lived there.” Hauck’s daughters, as well as his brother and sister, were born above the store. (Today, a non-related tenant occupies the apartment.)
Hauck’s is best known for the (undisputed) World Championship Dainty Contest, which takes place every July in the 1300 block of Hoertz Avenue – renamed George Hauck Avenue by the city several years ago. Dainty, a game introduced by the area’s German settlers in the 19th century and revived in contest form in 1971, has nothing delicate about it. “Years ago, when nobody had any money, you made your own games,” Hauck explains. “After your mom wore her broom out, you took the long part of the handle – 36 inches long – and put a point on one end, and you took a little piece – six inches – and you put a point on each end. That’s the dainty. You put it on the ground, and when you hit it with the stick the dainty goes up in the air and you hit it.” There’s more to the game than that, but the contest is an abbreviated version and doesn’t involve any group dynamics – except cheering on the participants, of course. “We just do the hitting now,” Hauck says. “The person who hits the dainty the greatest distance wins the contest.” (Feeling ambitious? The record, set in 1981, stands at 146 feet, five inches.)
But not everyone who wants to compete can do so. “Kids all have games,” Hauck says. “I just took it upon myself that you had to be 45 so you could play dainty, so it’s for the adults. It’s surprising how many people tell me, ‘I can’t wait till I’m 45 so I can play dainty.’”
At more than twice that minimum age, Hauck still comes into his store every day. “My wife and I moved to Fern Creek about 40 years ago, but I don’t feel like I moved, because I live at the store every day. I don’t do much, but I’m here. I enlisted three weeks after Pearl Harbor, and with the exception of four years in the Navy, I’ve spent my entire life in this store.
“I guess in this world, if you last 100 years, you have to attribute it to luck or something,” he continues. “Maybe we were in the right place at the right time. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you fall by the wayside. And when you’ve got money to spend, you go where they treat you best and you get good service. Maybe we’re doing something right.”
Hauck’s Handy Store, at 1000 Goss Ave., is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and closed Sunday and Monday. The store can be reached at (502) 637-9282.