Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You get what you ask for

Some years ago I would imagine shopping at stores with more variety, ones that were not in our area at the time. Yes, we had good department stores where you could get what you needed. But need turned into want, and consumer demand outgrew the little stores that we had. To feed the demand, big box stores and national chains came in and eventually pushed the little stores aside. Shoppers mobbed the large stores looking for good buys, wanting a large supply, and at low prices. From dresses to lawn ornaments to rechargeable drills, shopping became a national pastime. Wearing a new top to work, one is guaranteed to be questioned as to where it was purchased. Or see someone else with the same top. At the post office. Standing in line at the grocery store. Walking into the mall. With the overwhelming number of stores now, why does everything look the same? What happened to the variety?

Now I long for the little shops we had 20 or 30 years ago. I could buy Petit Belle nylons at FWWoolworth, toddler snowsuits at Caldor, and a dress at E J Korvette. Zayre had great sales on toys before the holidays, and Ames always had a good selection of housewares. These stores had so much stuff, good quality stuff, and most of it was made here in the USA. There were also really good clothing stores, like the one my mother used to go to. The clerk would be able to pick out the correct size bra for her, no fuss and bother. When she needed a special occasion dress, it was THE place to go. But it’s gone now. So we wander through Kohl’s and Macy’s and find nothing she could wear.

We used to have fabric stores with material selections that would have me rushing home to sew so that I could come back for more. Fabric was also available at Woolworth, Ben Franklin, and unusual places like the Banksville market. All of it was nice stuff at terrific prices. If I want to whip up something now, the only choice in this area is Joann’s, which really doesn’t have as great a selection as it could. More than half of the store is for crafts, and a large portion of the fabric is quilt-friendly. When you subtract the upholstery fabric, it leaves a small section of fleece, flannel, special occasion, juvenile prints, and lastly – top and bottom weights. I usually walk out of there empty handed. Where’s a jersey knit in a nice print when you need it?

The one holdout from the past is the small, independent hardware store. They’re usually tucked into the corners of town. The kind of place where the gentleman working there likes to answer your questions, and knows what each tool and gizmo is for because he’s used most of them on his own house. In the middle of winter he will go into the back room and find a box of rubber rings for wide-mouth canning jars for you. He doesn’t tell you that they don’t have any now because they’re only stocking winter items.

Yes, I miss the selection we had back then. I believe we’ve gotten exactly what we wanted, low prices of cheap stuff that we’re not satisfied with. So that we can throw it away and run out to buy more.

Full Disclosure: I do very little shopping at retail stores, preferring to peruse second hand shops for my needs.


Malcolm said...

love the full-disclosure at the end. Nostalgia ain't what it used to be!

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

I just loved this...It took me back in time..we used to have a Rileys Department Store here in downtown San Luis Obispo. It's gone. We used to have a Ben Franklin too. Gone. I loved going in that store at this time of year. And over the hill in Paso Robles was a giant old variety store. The one with the wood floors.In October all the Halloween would be out. I LOVED the costumes in the boxes... not to mention all the decorations...now..yep, it's Kohl's and Wal Mart.

MyStory of HiStory said...

I agree. SO tired of stuffmarts.

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hi Malcolm,
I think I've arrived at that stage where the previous generation were content with what they had and would shake their heads at us "young folks".

Hi Kary,
Wouldn't it be great to walk through those stores now? They were great.

Hi MyStory,
I LOVE your description - stuffmarts!!!

abby jenkins said...

I stumbled upon your blog and LOVE this post. I long for mom and pop stores. Where the people behind the counter have a vested interest in your satisfaction.

Some of my favorite memories as a child were wandering around the many stationary stores in Greenwich. The Quill, Marks Brothers, Meads....those stores helped me dream, I make handmade cards today and wish those places were around to carry my stuff.

I do still shop at Banksville Fabric in Norwalk. Talk about a candy store!

I look forward to following your blog. perhaps I'll run in to you at a thrift shop or Goodwill someday!

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hello Abby,
I'm so glad you stopped by! Mead's was a terrific store - with the office supplies downstairs. Do you remember Roger's, where the clerks used to put the money and slip in the tube so the transaction was handled by the office?

Banksville Fabric is in Norwalk? Great! I'll have to stop there.

Have a wonderful day!