Touch of Grey will, well, touch upon the rainbow that is life. Good music, good times, and good friends combine to make all the splendid colors. Touch of Grey will celebrate this beautiful rainbow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goodbye to the Mom and Pop Store?

After a somewhat dispirited visit to my local Wally World yesterday, I thought of an old Victoria Advocate blog of mine and revisited it. I still agree with the words of that blog, and will repeat it here for you in its entirety. It does make one think about the smaller, family-owned businesses that are being gobbled up by the big-box stores, and just what is being lost along the way.

What happens if the day comes when the small family proprietors, the independent artists, and the local friendly shops no longer exist? I spent a bundle yesterday at Wal-Mart, more than I should, as is usually the case there; after all, with so much selection and inventory, why not fill up the cart? I know I also saved a lot of money, as I had many coupons to complement Wal-Mart's already LOW prices. But what have I really saved? Time? Nope. Hassle? Are you kidding me?

Maybe it's a good time to post this old blog, as back-to-school shopping commences. The largest place we ever shopped at in Houston for back-to-school necessities was Foley's, Weiners, and the little teacher-supply store down the road. We also would go the small hobby shop on Crosstimbers to buy art supplies for both myself and my parents, now that they would have a little extra time on their hands once I went back to school; mother would pursue her multitude of artistic endeavors, while dad would busy himself with his model building.

But I digress. Think of those little shops as you read this repeat, and ask yourself what has been saved, and what has been lost.

There has been an interesting thread on the VicAd discussion forum concerning Wal-Mart and peoples' experiences there. While I could jump in and join the fray, venting my frustration at the long lines and sometimes less than courteous associates at the big-box stores, I have been thinking all day about the smaller stores, the mom-and-pop stores, if you will, that seem to be a vanishing breed nowadays.

Contrary to one poster's sentiment, the mom-and-pop store is NOT yet gone, but is rapidly fading in the shadow of all the mega-stores, the Johnny-come-latelys of retailing. Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, and others have changed the landscape of the retail world, and have left their mark on American consumerism. Left in the dust are the smaller stores, the little guys who were always there, on the town square, to do business with a smile and a "How are the wife and kids? Have a good day, now, hear?". The days of walking in an establishment (not through a sliding, electronic-eye door, mind you), hearing that bell on the door announce your arrival, and being helped by a friendly and KNOWLEDGEABLE person are going the way of the dodo.

I recall even in Houston, we had a few small neighborhood stores that offered a welcome respite from the concrete jungle surrounding them. One grocery store in particular, Stutes' on Jensen Drive, was the one we would always patronize for small grocery items and meats. Mr. Stutes, the owner, knew every customer by name and would cut and wrap his own meat daily. He would cash a check for money for the customer, serving as the local bank in a way, as well. He always had a smile and a kind word for every customer. I remember well the old cash register, the kind that seemed to "talk" when the lever was pulled, not these modern electronic contraptions that have no personality. There was one cashier in particular named May, and whenever my parents would come in with me in tow, she would let me sit up on the counter while she keyed in the price of our groceries. She was always so kind and cheerful. I wonder if kids nowadays will have memories of this sort when they get older? It seems such an impersonal world now. In addition to Stutes', there was also a corner grocery called Doyle's and a service station (when service really was FULL SERVICE) called Jone's Gas. How I miss those small stores!

There are some small mom-and-pop stores left, particularly in the small towns. There is one place I love going to in particular, Morrow's Hardware, here in Yoakum. The wooden floors appear to be the original ones from its inception, and the shelving is likely the same that has always been there. The Gin and Feed in Yoakum has been transformed to a farmer's market but still has the original architecture intact. I must confess, I don't frequent these small stores as much as I should, finding myself in Victoria half the time and stopping by Lowe's or Home Depot, because it is most convenient.

I am reminded of an especially poignant "Wonder Years" episode where Kevin finds employment at the local hardware store, yep, the kind with the bell on the door and the wooden floors, just like Morrow's. But the lure of the burger stand in the local mall is calling to him, and he leaves the hardware store to work in a "cooler" place, the mall, where he can be around all his friends. Meanwhile, the little hardware store is dying day by day, and the old man who owns the place has nobody to pass along his knowledge and concern for good customer service to. We all know the unhappy ending of stories like these, even though the episode doesn't go into all of that. Kevin has a decent job, making even more at the burger stand than he ever could have at a local hardware store, and he seems cooler to his friends. But what of the things that have been lost? How to put a price on that? How to restore pride, care, and love of a business that has been built through generations, from the ground up? It seems that many of us are too busy nowadays to ponder these questions. Someday soon, the whole point may be moot, as we mourn the demise of the mom-and-pop store.


Truth Ferret said...

There still are a few Mom and Pop stores in Victoria and we should help them to stay in business. Some have grown and expanded and some have stayed small. No matter to me, as long as their products and service stay stellar.

Appreciate this blog and your repeating it.

Truth Ferret said...

Sorry, I meant to add this, before I closed my last comment:

Please post your blog on The would lead to some good comments about the "marketing" of Victoria. Thanks. Ferret

Sugar Magnolia said...

I believe I will do just that, Ferret. Consider it posted.

not securely anchored said...

There I was in Victoria, wearing white because it is August, and driving a pickup truck with a leaky rear tire. I could not think of one place to get it aired up without finding two quarters, fumbling for the pressure gage, uncapping the valve stem, and dragging a black air hose across the white jeans. No service, indeed.

Edith Ann said...

This reminds me of a movement a couple of years ago. WalMart was trying to buy an old Mall in Austin to raze and put up a new ginormous Wally World. All around this mall was a collection of what I would call 'family owned businesses'. One that I recall for sure is Zinger's Hardware--the most marvelous shop in all of Austin.

Zinger's was part of the Merchants' Association taking on WalMart. They were trying to raise legal funds to fight the purchase. To raise funds they sold Bumper Stickers that had a frowny face and said, "WalMart--killing America's Main Street one store at a time". It was in the familiar WalMart colors of blue and yellow.

That was the best thing I had ever seen, and I bought one. I also have an Aunt who says, "Where WalMart goes, nothing grows".

Don't get me started on WalMart...

Sugar Magnolia said...

I would love to have a real, full-service gas station around. It seems everything these days is in the do-it-yourself mode.

Edith Ann, I'm with you on the feelings toward Wal-Mart. Not only Wal-Mart but any other store who thinks self-out is a great idea: NO THANK YOU. I expect a little service when I shop. I WILL NOT check myself out and bag my own groceries. You will look me in the eye as a fellow human being when you take my hard-earned cash and you WILL THANK ME.

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone!