Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mom and Pop Grocery Stores

I've always been intrigued by Mom and Pop grocery stores. Why? Because when I walk into one, I somehow possess that down-home feeling that only a rural or small town experience can offer. The quaintness of the space exudes that I've either been camping and have run out of s'more supplies or I've been traveling and am longing for an ice cold drink or a special treat. Or perhaps, it is a quiet place to rest because I've been out walking and am ready for a paper and an early morning cup of coffee. Regardless of what it is, it's special.

When I was a kid, I use to walk down to Rosedale Market in Gig Harbor with my neighborhood friends and sisters and buy ice cream. This Mom and Pop grocery store was like many others, it was inviting, quaint, and welcoming. It's gone through many changes over the years, which has made it even better, slowly offering local art, bread, eggs, and meat choices from the surrounding area. They've also began serving espresso, simple breakfasts, and sandwiches and have teamed up with an antiques dealer to sell unique garden art in their backyard courtyard. Drive up on any day and you will a see tractor or an old chevy truck parked out front and an inviting porch to sit on while watching kids play baseball games in the field across the street. It is such a lively, intimate, and community-driven place which makes it absolutely clear that this is not just another grocery store or quick-mart gas station that we so typically associate with convenience.

It was to my surprise that I visited Rexville county store in the Skagit Valley recently and discovered an even more exciting model for what a Mom and Pop grocery store could be. If you drove by and blinked you might miss it. Like Rosedale Market, Rexville is more than a grocery store. This historical place offers a wide selection of gourmet foods while still keeping things small and friendly. It also serves as a community center, offering wine tastings, food festivals, and art openings. So, where's the gas station? So long to gas, they are now offering biodiesel! Forget a quick bite to eat and stay for awhile. A room adjacent to the main store offers daily breakfasts and lunches with a wide assortment of soup and salad choices. An outdoor patio allows more room for guests when spring, summer, and late fall weather is at its best and when there is nothing better than sitting down for a pint and a slice of homemade pizza. Produce from the productive Skagit Valley is regularly stocked on store shelves as is jarred jams, jellies, and fine mustards.

I love the idea of Mom and Pop grocery stores, not only existing but thriving. They don't have to be a rural phenomenon either. Our cities and towns need more of them too. They can help reconnect our communities, funneling in local produce as well as creating a community post where people can gather, share, and build a sense of place for themselves in a world where busyness and timelines often win out. I'm tempted to start one up myself! I would feature local baked goods, homemade ice cream, beer and wine from area businesses, and a simple adjoining cafe. It would be fun to have an outside brick oven for pizzas or, when the weather starts getting stormy, a fireplace inside to listen to community musicians play. The opportunities are endless! It's time to get out and meet our neighbors and celebrate our communities and neighborhoods.

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