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The Eclectic Pen - Thoughts on the Corner Store

By: Scott W. (Rev)   + 36 more  
Date Submitted: 8/20/2007
Genre: Nonfiction » Current Events
Words: 678

  The Corner Store is a dying relic of old Americana, a real estate fossil that tells us just as much about where we've been as where we are going, and quite possibly where we we can never go back.

There was a time when commerce was still achievable to the little guy, the independent owner, the Moms and Pops of the world that owned their own shop, and lived out there days working it within the community.

Perhaps I'm running the risk of being overly sentimental and nostalgic over a time period I was barely able to see the tail end of myself. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, as it can easily obscure the solid facts and harsh realities of days past. We rarely look back fondly at the bad times, unless the joy lies in remembering how we overcame them.

But even with the rose colored glasses of fond memories obscuring our vision, it is hard to deny that our culture as come a long way from the days when it was common for people to walk down to the corner store not only for their daily needs, a gallon of milk or the local paper, but to perhaps meet with other locals and act sociable, something that seems almost as foreign as milkmen and ice boxes to people my age and younger.

It may seem cliche or hackneyed to talk about people meeting to trade gossip at the butcher shop, or spending a sweltering summer afternoon trading tales out of school while drinking ice cold sodas under the corner store awning. Then again, cliches don't become so out of scarcity. The age old image of elderly men playing chess outside of the ice cream shop didn't just appear out of the vacuum of the distant past.

I can still remember when, as a child, malls were often spoken of with hushed tones as people warned of the end of civilized society. These large shopping centers would kill the small town businessman, as families flocked to these large indoor pavilions to wander the hours away, mindlessly window shopping and running up massive credit card debts.

Its funny how quick the notion of malls as evil became so comical. These days, malls are still everywhere, but they haven't killed of the local entrepreneur. That hatchet job has been taken care of by the huge supermarkets and mega stores that pass for the local grocer or hardware store these days.

There are no more corner grocers, no more local hardware stores, no more five and dimes, no more used book shops. Now we go to grocery stores with delis, sushi bars, bakeries, florists, and coffee bars. We go to bookstores with DVDs, Cd's, gift centers, and coffee bars. We go to hardware stores with on staff contractors, patio furniture, grill, lawnmowers, and landscaping supplies. The hardware stores don't have coffee bars yet. Give them time, they're still catching up. Finally, we go to Target-Wal-K-Mart super stores that have everything the above stores offer as well, with enough crap piled on top of that to make you dizzy if you try to climb above it all to get your bearings.

In the short span of three or four decades, we've gone from giant complexes where you could find individual stores specializing in everything, to giant aircraft hanger sized stores where everything is sold in the same checkout line. We've simplified our lives to the point that we go to the same two or three places to fulfill all of our basic needs, like pigs led to the same troughs day after day. No need to socialize, no need to things one at a time, no need to sacrifice time or effort, no need to support five or ten small businesses when one giant corporation will give us everything we think we need so we don't have to shop around for better deals or alternatives.

As an advanced civilization, and one of the leading commercial industrial nations, we excel at simplifying things by cutting out the middle man. Somewhere along the way, the middle man became us.

This is called progress.

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Scott W. (Rev)

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Comments 1 to 4 of 4
Silvercat - - 8/21/2007 1:24 AM ET
You have very smoothly summed up the problems with 'progress'....nice going! :)
Sabiel C. (sabu423) - 8/21/2007 9:11 PM ET
This is Linda said, nice summing up of what we've lost with the Big-Boxification of America.
Marta J. (booksnob) - 8/24/2007 9:03 AM ET
Scott, this gives me a lot of nostalgic yearning for the Main Street in Middletown,CT (how generic can you get??) of my youth. The emergence of the very first mall (which probably isn't even in existence anymore) was the beginning of the end... Not only do I miss Zagoren's Deli,the Capitol Theater with its midnight shows, and the Fashion Post, but the late 1960's street kids who reeked of weed and panhandled there. Actually, Main St has recently been recreated as a haven for funky ethnic eateries, so maybe sometimes there's a happy ending sometimes, if somewhat altered?
IONE L. (zaneygraylady) - 8/24/2007 10:08 PM ET
I remember those days well. Now we have Walgreens and Big Apple Bagel down the street.
Comments 1 to 4 of 4