Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Local Grocery Store

Yesterday I had to walk downtown and stop by the bank to get change to get a soda from the machine at the car wash (it was hot and I really didn't feel like running down to the convenience store). Unfortunately, we only have Pepsi machines downtown (odd, as Coke outsells Pepsi around here) and it was out of everything except Diet Pepsi. There was a time when I could have simply walked from my house to a grocery store, bought a soda there, and been home within ten minutes.

At one time Huntsville had no less than two grocery stores downtown. One was Summer's, where my parents often shopped. The other was Temple Stephens. Both stores were in many respects the same. They were both long and narrow, with a bin up front for the soda bottles one would return for the deposit in those days. Not being particularly large, they didn't carry the selections in food and other goods that a supermarket would, although they did carry the basics. At the two stores one could buy milk, eggs, meat, soda, and other neccessities.

Unfortunately, Summer's burned down. I seem to recall that was in the late Seventies, although it might have been the early Eighties. Temple Stephens simply shut down in the mid-Eighties. Like many small grocers, I suspect that they simply could not complete with the larger supermarkets. Supermarkets spread like wildfire throughout the United States in the mid-Twentieth Century. They carried a much wider array of goods than the small, local grocers did, often at competitve prices. It is little wonder that many of the small, neighbourhood grocers then closed in the mid to late Twentieth Century.

I must say that in some ways I find this sad. While I don't know about other places, it seems to me that in Randolph County, the supermarkets aren't always conveniently located. In Moberly most of the supermarkets were on Morley Street--Business 63 (also known as "the Magic Mile," it is the town's "strip"). The exceptions to this were Krogers, which was located on Reed Street (which is the main street of the town), Van's, which was located on Concannon Street (right amidst a residential neighbourhood), and Save More (formerly Safeway and Food Barn), which is located on South Morely (again, right amidst a residential neighbourhood). Krogers closed down when I was about five years old. Van's closed down many, many years ago, leaving Save More as the only neighbourhood supermarket. In fact, the only other place to buy groceries in Moberly now is the WalMart Supercenter. Here in Huntsville our local supermarket is out on the edge of town--it takes about five minutes to drive there from my house! It's too far to walk in anything less than forty minutes or more.

At any rate, it seems to me that in small, local grocers closing, it actually decreased the convenience with which one could buy groceries. In some respects, people in Huntsville and Moberly are lucky in that we really don't have that far to drive to a supermarket. I remember when my brother lived in Columbia. The nearest supermarket was a ten to fifteen minute drive away (okay, I know people in larger cities are laughing at this, but ten to fifteen minutes is a long drive in a smaller city....)! Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that we will ever see small, local grocery stores ever reopening, even in small towns. The sad fact is that they could not possibly compete with the supermarkets, and especially not with such places as WalMart Supercenters and other similar stores. As sad as it may be, it seems to me that the small, local grocery is always going to be a memory from a bygone era.

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