MOUNTAIN BROOK / BIRMINGHAM – For generations, many in the Birmingham area and beyond have chosen Ousler Sandwiches for their parties, graduations, weddings and funerals.
While the location has changed several times since Dana Ousler opened the business in January of 1915, nothing much else has.
The same chicken salad, pimento cheese, cream cheese and olive, ham salad, ham and cheese and egg salad finger sandwiches are on the menu, fixed the same way, using the same recipes.
Christine Campbell Elmore started making sandwiches with Ousler when she was 16. During World War II, Ousler Sandwiches became the first business in the United States to sell pre-packaged sandwiches. Ousler and Elmore did the packaging together.
After Ousler retired in 1953, Christine Elmore bought the business. “Back then, a woman just didn’t buy a business and the bank wasn’t really on her side, but she went ahead and bought it anyway,” said her son, Bill Elmore, who now runs the business with his wife, Becky, and daughters, Jenny Elmore and LeAnn Elmore Wood. Their son, Brian, although otherwise employed, “still helps the old man out some,” his dad said. During the busiest times, son-in-law, Chris Wood, along with grandsons Camren and Turner Wood also can be found helping out at the business.
Christine preached to Bill and Becky Elmore to leave the business the way it was. “Give everybody a good product at a good price, and it will be OK,” she told them.
Bill Elmore concedes, “We saw no reason to change.”
Becky Elmore calls her late mother-in-law wise. “For people to tell us stories of their families coming all these years and getting our sandwiches,” she said. “It makes our hearts swell many sizes.”
For years, the sandwiches were sold in drug stores, mom and pop stores, service stations, hotels, garages, tire stores and even at industrial sites. The sandwiches are still sold in vending machines. Otherwise, you must come to 2814 Cahaba Road in Mountain Brook to pick up Ousler Sandwiches, whether you want some just for lunch or a party of 100.
The Elmore family is the workforce at Ousler Sandwiches. Vice President LeAnn Elmore Wood is expected to lead the business into the next generation. “She says she wants to,” her mother said. “We’ll help her get to that point.”
Today, the Alabama Retail Association honored Ousler Sandwiches for its 102 years of doing business in Alabama. The Birmingham Business Alliance nominated the business for the award. The business received a bronze plaque to place outside its store and a certificate suitable for display inside.
“For a business to survive the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement,” said ARA President Rick Brown. “It is fitting to celebrate the enduring first-century contributions Ousler Sandwiches has to the greater Birmingham community.”
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,200 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.