ARCOLA, Ill. (WCIA) – It’s a common act to find your name written on your cup at Starbucks. When your order is ready, hearing your name called out breaks the barrier between employee and customer. Though this marketing tool has been a Starbucks staple for over a decade, the trend began decades ago at a small drugstore in Arcola.

Bob Arrol bought a drugstore in 1948 on the corner of Oak and Main Street in downtown Arcola. Besides prescriptions, customers could shop for a variety of items, including televisions, Hallmark cards, toys, watches, guitar strings, tobacco products, magazines, gift items and dry goods. Customers also bought coffee.

Arrol made coffee every morning for his friend Horace Clark who was a regular customer. One day, Arrol said: “I’m just going to put your name on a cup, so I don’t have to wash it so often.”

Like in any small American town, word spread quickly. Everyone wanted their name on a coffee cup too. Arcola citizens would wait in line for hours to grab a seat inside for a cup of coffee. 

“The coffee club was not mine, nor was I a member,” said Rob Arrol, Arrol’s grandson who remembers the shop and its stories fondly. “In terms of what it meant to me, the drugstore was always there; it was a part of my childhood and my community.”

Eventually, Arrol made a rule. All customers must order and consume 100 cups of coffee before earning their name on a cup. At the time, coffee cost a nickel.

In the early days of the shop, Arrol, his wife Betty and their son Robert lived in the small apartment above the drugstore.

“As a kid, I wanted to live up there and had dreams of moving there when old enough,” said Tracy Kazelis, Rob’s sister and Arrol’s granddaughter who once worked at the drugstore. “Learning the owners of the coffee cups was daunting at first over the years, but soon became second nature.”

Names filled a total of 162 cups in a cabinet Arrol built himself. He soon ran out of space to hold them all in his small shop. The only way anyone else could join the club was if someone moved out of town or passed away.

Having your name on a cup was a great accolade to have in those days.

“It was apparent that the people that frequented the store and sat on the stools at the soda fountain enjoyed the community and the experience,” Rob said. “They had a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect for my grandparents and wanted to be there. My grandparents fostered a sense of belonging at that store. It was a magical, bygone era.”

The pharmacy became the morning hub of the town. At least 20 people filled the 13 stools and surrounding booths. They read the daily papers, discussed community news, and watched the TV set up on the counter.

“The only way to connect with others was by letter, telephone or in person,” Rob said. “The store gave people an excuse to get out of their homes and spend a bit of time catching up on the latest news.”

Arrol and Betty ran the store together most days out of the week.

“Gram and Gramps were a strong team, always working together to make the pharmacy a success,” said Kerri Jo Taylor, Rob’s sister and Arrol’s granddaughter. “Both of my grandparents also loved the lively conversations that would occur at the coffee counter. I didn’t always understand what was being said as there seemed to be a lot of political talk and teasing, but there was always a lot of laughter.”

Arrol created a brilliant marketing scheme without realizing it, but earning money wasn’t his intention. He enjoyed the atmosphere his coffee club brought to Arcola.

“It wasn’t just the downtown destination of the store,” Rob said. “It was the people you’d see and visit with, the conversations you’d have and the welcoming atmosphere. It was so welcoming that to this day, I flashback fondly to the drugstore whenever I get a whiff of a lit cigarette and I’m not a smoker.”

Arrol closed his drugstore in 1984; the coffee club soon ended too. Some of the club’s original 

Cups are displayed at the Arcola Chamber of Commerce.

This Central Illinois tale is still one for the ages, good to the last drop.