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Tommy’s visitation tonight; funeral Wednesday

By Walter Geiger Tommy Gasses, an icon in downtown Barnesville for five generations, died Saturday afternoon at Spalding Regional Medical Center. Gasses, 74, and his wife, Rose, operated Tommy’s Food Mart then Tommy’s Sportswear at the corner of Main and Forsyth streets since 1959. Tommy Gasses had worked until three weeks ago when he was diagnosed with heart issues and a brain tumor. He worked four hours the day before his death and enjoyed good sales. He went home that afternoon, walked around the block with his daughter Rita McGee and asked her to pick a red rose for his Rose. Funeral services for Gasses will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at St. Peter The Rock Catholic Church in The Rock. Visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m. tonight at Williams Funeral Home. Three generations of Gasses were raised in the Main Street corner store. Rita and her sister, Gina Miller, worked there as did grandchildren Theresa Smith and John Thompson. In recent years, Tommy enjoyed leaving his store and picking up his great-grandchildren Dylan and Kinley Smith from school and bringing them to the store. Tommy and Rose opened Tommy’s as a grocery in 1959. His father had been in the retail clothing business and hers in the grocery business. Tommy said he learned the business from two fathers. The store was open from 7 a.m. – midnight and sold the first tenderloins and ribeye steaks marketed in Barnesville. ’This was more of a meat store but it wasn’t easy at first. I had to use very sharp knives and hand saws to cut steaks of the beef quarters. One day my father was here watching me and he bought be a brand new bandsaw. It was like giving me a million dollars,’ Tommy said in a December, 2011 interview with Herald-Gazette reporter Kay Pedrotti. Tommy befriended Chick-fil-a magnate Truett Cathy before Cathy began operating The Rock Ranch nearby. Cathy had been a butcher himself and often rode his motorcycle to town to visit with Tommy and Rose. In that same December interview Tommy also told of an interesting encounter with another famous grocer. ‘One day two men came in here wearing cashmere overcoats – something you didn’t often see in Barnesville – and they walked around my store twice. Rose called me from the back just before they left and one of them introduced himself as Bob Ingle. He said he couldn’t come into Barnesville without visiting my store because that’s the way his mother and father started out. Very nice man. Next thing I know, he’s got a big store out on 341.’ Later Tommy and Rose converted to selling sportswear and athletic shoes. Tommy’s quick wit, wide repertoire of jokes and retail genes made him a natural salesman who could hawk anything and never met a stranger. Downtown Barnesville just won’t be the same without him.

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