In 1926, Mary Engelhard Van Cleave’s parents bought the building that later became the Sports Attic.
Van Cleave, who with two of her daughters watched the building burn on Friday morning, was born on the second floor a year after her parents' purchase. Back then, the building was home to a tavern called Engelhard’s and Manchester Road was a dirt road.
“I loved the tavern business. It was so much fun,” she said. “My dad was bootlegging first. It was just a little bitty building." She said that little building was later moved to Hanley and Brentwood to become an ice cream stand.
She bought the place with her husband, John Van Cleave ("Van"), who tended the bar for her dad, Fred Engelhard. They ran it until 1974.
“We had dinners for the Lions Club, the dining room would be on the first floor, and then they’d go down to the rathskeller and have their meeting.” That basement bar is now in Van Cleave’s house on Cecelia Avenue.
Van Cleave's four daughters grew up in the home above the tavern.
One of them, Judy Chiodini, reflected on life above Engelhard's.
She and her sisters never had a hard time finding a date when they told boyfriends they lived above the local tavern, she said.
“The hard thing was, when you had a new boyfriend, and you’d say there’s three doors (to the building), and invariably they’d go into the tavern door,” she said.
“I had my first kiss at that front door,” Chiodini said.
Her sister, Bonnei Luttbeg, said the four sisters were born in consecutive years, so when they were 14, 15, 16 and 17-years-old they were all dating at the same time.
"We had designated spots to sit with our boyfriend, there were so many of us," she said.
Jan Stapf's husband, Charlie, tended bar for Van Cleave in the 1950s and 60s. She was there with Van Cleave and her daughters on Friday morning.
“For Halloween, they’d set up a long table for us in the back, and the parents would all stand there and drink, and all of us kids would eat popcorn and peanuts after we trick-or-treated," she said. "We got a soda from the bar. That was a big deal.”