Small Business Saturday: What Have We Done?

In elementary school, my father would send my sister and me to Curnutte’s Hardware Store. It was a block and a half from our one story home. Almost 30 years later, I can’t understand why my father would send two little girls to buy parts that were always the wrong parts, but, he did. And Mr. Curnutte would always let him come back and get the correct nut or bolt he needed. The hardware store has been closed for about twenty years now.

What have we done?

By the time I reached the age to take swimming classes, the instructor told me: “You don’t need to take these lessons. You know how to swim.” The reason I knew how to swim was our town had a small neighborhood pool, Thompson’s Pool. The first fuzzy summer memory welded permanently into my mind is one where I clung onto a chipped concrete pool side. I kicked my legs furiously. I can still see my mother standing above me with her bleached out perm blocking the sun, smiling down.

Her daughter was swimming at the same pool she had learned to swim. My mother swam in competitions and would later compete at another local pool, Olympic Pool. She placed 1st place in a citywide backstroke competition. I’ve used her backstroke in every triathlon I’ve competed in over the last 6 years. Thompson’s Pool closed long before I became a teenager. Overgrown weeds reside there now, and you can’t even tell a pool once resided there. They tore down Olympic pool a few years back. Grass, dirt and an open field sits in its place today.

What have we done?

The first and only time I shoplifted was from the local grocery store which sat less than a mile from my parents’ home. I took a piece of 5 cent candy out of the taunting plastic bin. I stuck that piece of candy in my light maroon long stitched coat pocket. As my mom was taking my coat off, she felt the hard candy sticking out. She reached in and snatched my theft, immediately she scolded me. My mother snatched me up and put me back into the blue family station wagon. We returned in less than five minutes back to the grocery store. She walked behind me as I slowly shuffled my feet together not wanting to do what she insisted I needed to do. I walked up to the manager and handed the candy to him. My childish voice whimpered, “I stole your candy. I’m sorry.” He was a nice, understanding man. The small grocery store was replaced by a national grocery chain a few years after I stole their candy. Then the national chain left. Another one came and today that chain is failing. Fate will determine whether it will one day sit empty or another large chain will try.

What have we done?

My town once had a drive-in theater. An interstate was built, and you could see the movies illuminating on the darkest nights from the high perched four lane highway. My sister and I would always rubberneck to see what was playing. One night our parents took us in their old Ford pick-up truck to watch an authentic drive-in movie. Like children do, we both passed out halfway through the first movie. When we woke up, the screen was playing “Young Guns” with Emilio Estevez. We were allowed to stay and watch the grown-up movie. We ate popcorn and candy while being treated to sugary sodas.

The drive-in was tore down and bought out by a Super Center store with ‘rollback’ prices. Within ten years of purchasing and tearing down our only drive-in theater, the Super Center decided they needed a bigger space. They were expanding their already large store to include a grocery, frozen food aisles along with a home and garden center. The large Super Center moved out of the drive-in space and relocated less than a mile down the road. Within a few years, they would build another store less than 8 miles down the road. They’ve monopolized communities.

What have we done?

Too many treasured memories I have of my home is gone. My childhood has been replaced by so-called bigger and better. My son will never know the hometown hardware store. He will never learn to swim at Thompson’s Pool. His grocery stores are comprised of a large Super Center where I can put fertilizer and paint in the same shopping cart as my milk.
We take him to our local farmer’s market grocery store, and buy what we can there; mainly produce and eggs grown and farmed in our region. They sell the best locally made honey I’ve ever tasted. The farmer’s market store is the closest my son will come to the small grocery store I once knew. They don’t have the big candy bins though. The last drive-in we could visit was located a few hours away. It closed sometime over the last five years. Bigger isn’t better.

What will we do?

Corporate childhoods aren’t an investment. They’re only a convenience in an already over-paced society. I miss Curnutte’s Hardware. I miss Thompson’s Pool. I miss the small hometown grocery store. I miss my small neighborhood owned childhood. The places where we said “hello” to our friends on trips to these stores. The places ran by the people in our community, these people are our neighbors and our friends. We send our children to school with their children and sit next to them at little league games while we cheer.

The Walton family, who owns the controlling portions in the large Super Centers, never come to any of the games in my communities.

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***An original version of this article first appeared on Club Mid/Scary Mommy on August 30, 2015.***

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1 Comment on "Small Business Saturday: What Have We Done?"

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Lauren C. Moye
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I live in a very small town with empty buildings. We gained a Freds a year ago – but average folks can’t live off the meager earnings of a business in the area. It’s very sad. I always look around and wish that somebody who didn’t need to make money, who could afford to break even year after year, would invest in the area. Sadly, most of the buildings will just slowly decay. They’ll never house another business again.

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