I have heard rumors of this place in my circle of friends for weeks before I actually went there. It’s the kind of place you know right away whether you’re there or not. In the traditional conception of buildings, the brown one-stop shop sits inconspicuously amongst the houses of the last suburb of Ferndale before it turns into Oak Park.
Frankly, the shop itself isn’t magical, or really impressive. Like any other shop it has coolers with drinks, and ice creams, shelves with chips, bread, and other random items. There is that dirt, that isn’t really dirt, it’s more like the ghost of cleaners used once before.
It’s hot in there, even with two fans going. It stands apart because unlike other stores who decorate with everyday window clings, Ernie’s Market Place has newspaper clippings, “BEST IN DETROIT” banners, t-shirts, hunting, and baby pictures hung on the walls.
However this store has something very special in the back of the store.
I have been told that no matter when you go into the shop there is a line down one of the two aisles. People stand quietly, rocking back and forth, occasionally talking to one another. The day I went in, a gentleman from a local diary company was my line partner. He was a sweet man, and thoughtful enough to let me know all the details of well, him... although he never did give me his name.
Over the murmur of the line I heard his voice for the first time -- a bold, warm, and perfected “YEAH BABY!” Those who had heard it before smiled much like a child smiles when they hear a familiar voice. Those who hadn’t marveled.
No-name Milkman, as I will call him, chuckled and let me know: “That’s him, that’s Ernie.” I have heard that name before, and I couldn’t wait to meet him.
Ernie identifies all customers with the name, “Baby.” Women, children, and, yes, men. This is no come on; it is more like a pet name for all beings. The great equalizer, as it was. All customers brand new or classic are treated like a friend, neighbor, or relative that hasn’t stopped by in awhile.
Ernie makes sandwiches to order in three sizes $3, $4, and $5.
After Milkman gets his five sandwiches, it was my turn. Nervous that it might be all too obvious that I hadn’t done this before I blurted out: “I haven’t been here before!” Unshaken, Ernie responded with a: “YEAH BABY!”
I fully expected a gong to go off. Instead, by command, I put my hand face down on a package of bread, then flipped it over to have my hand made full with kisses, Hersey kisses.
Within a few moments my sandwich was ready with Ernie’s “love spice” on top.
A smiling heart drawn on the wrapper, I paid, and off I was on my taste adventure. I enjoyed every bite; almost as much I enjoyed the Saint like presence of Ernie.
The Ernie’s Market experience is not just a perfect little deli; it’s an experience of true human kindness. Although not a part of the traditional treks of Ferndale, it is a gem of the gamete of Ferndale’s one of a kind feed your face stops.
I encourage everyone to take the venture to Ernie’s Market to try at least a $4 sandwich, a “YEAH BABY!,” and maybe you’ll get some kisses.
Ernie's Market is located at 8500 Capital Street, Oak Park, Mich.