Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Stores and Stories

A cruise through "downtown funk" this afternoon revealed a landscape of color and character, stores with untold stories of days gone by. This happens to be Mytown, Canada but as I drove I imagined this could be Anytown, Anywhere today.

Remember when shopping was a walk down the block to the store? When a night out was over to the local Italian, Chinese restaurant or diner, and when everyone from the neighborhood knew everyone from the neighborhood? Okay, perhaps not. We've evolved swiftly.

Disappearing are the days when shopkeepers would sweep their sidewalks, serve their community and bring home gossip to tell their family. Now we tell tales of new big box stores, bulk savings and internet shopping. We don't walk down the block (or the hallway for that matter) to speak to one another anymore. We text, we tweet and we facebook.

Should we miss these stories of local color and character; tales of days gone by? Perhaps we should listen to the well tread sidewalks and fading storefronts for the whispers of distant, simpler days... now passing into the shadows.

If the end is near, I will only say this: I had an old dog once. I suspected her time was coming to a close and so did she. I continued to take her for walks and towards the end I let her take me where she wanted to go and tell me when to go home. We relished each other's company to the end.

Perhaps we can do the same for local small businesses before they too are gone.


  1. Awesome! You A TRUE Artist!!!

  2. Love. That is the only word I can attach to this.
    You should publish this one for the world to see...
    :) Thanks Rand!

  3. Great post, Rand. The photos truly tell a story of a bygone era, a simpler time.

    It's only 40 years ago that I remember knowing the barber in the small town I lived in, going to the Home Hardware that closed at noon Wednesdays so the owner could get supplies in the Big City. My dad could buy gasoline and keep a tab with the owner. Those were interesting times, and I have great memories of them, but I love the convenience of Sunday shopping, 24-hour grocery stores, being able to buy gasoline after 5 p.m. But I do miss the camaraderie with the local owner. Now our dollars are being shipped off to Bentonville, Ark. That said, if I find a small local shop worth supporting, I'll do it.

  4. So true, loved this!

  5. Thank you Rod, WW, Garey and Linda. Appreciate your kind comments. Lived for a year in small town NS and slowly got to know this strange phenomena called neighborhood and community. Local shops were pretty well all you had unless you wanted to drive for an hour... Very happy you found some value in the post. Come again!

  6. Yeah ... people will often complain when the guy who runs the corner store charges a few pennies more for his goods than the superstore. But they don't call it a "convenience store" for nothing! I think it's worth MUCH more than a few pennies, not only to have the "convenience" of only having to walk ten minutes, but to be able to deal with someone who smiles and knows your name. My guy rescues & saves all the free dvd and cd giveaways from his unsold newspapers and "slips" me a whole pile of them every few weeks with a big grin on his face. I may or may not ever watch them, but I sure appreciate the thought!! And we still get doorstep deliveries from a real live London milkman, complete with his battery operated milk float. The price for a pint bottle is way out of proportion to supermarket prices, but we don't care - we look at it as helping to preserve an endangered species! ;-) (He always leaves a Christmas card for us from him and his family - when was the last time you got one of those from Safeway?)

  7. Very nice post, Rand.

    Garey makes an interesting point. I've lived in a small Ontario town for the past 25 years and have seen many local businesses go under as the big-box stores creep closer and closer to us (there's now a WalMart only 6 miles away -- when I moved here it more like 30 miles.)

    And I must admit, I do tend to make the short drive to those anonymous boxes more and more these days, rather than frequent my local stores.

    Other than the hardware store, that is. Mostly the same guys have been working there as long as I've lived here, and they'll still happily spend half an hour with me hunting for some obscure part -- try that a Home Depot! :)

  8. Thanks Ken and Brent! Neighborhood stores are like old friends. You can spend time with others but it's not the same... :o)

  9. These pictures are beautiful in an Americana sort of way. Once you look beyond the nostalgic old typestyles and architecture you are struck with the poignant realization that these storefronts are relics of a bygone era.

  10. Fabulous visual ethnography!!! Yes, it is! LOL!


  11. Thanks so much Kristy! Appreciate your impressions. :o)

    And Barb, here I was thinking it was socio-cultural anthropology! lol!