Chain stores killed urban ma & pa stores. Will their country cousins meet with a similar fate?
In the previous post, I lamented the demise of inner-city ma and pa stores. On the other hand, small family-owned stores in rural areas have managed to survive. For now.
Logistics have been their salvation. A lot of rural towns have fewer residents than most of us have living relatives. So it’s not worthwhile for supermarket chains to locate in rural areas. That said, there has been a proliferation of dollar stores and that worries me. One in nearby Butler replaced Hitchman’s Market after it died a slow painful death three years ago. Hitchman’s had been in business for more than 50 years. Other dollar stores have been built recently — one next door to Dale’s Cardinal Food Store in Danville and one just down the road from Shopwise in Warsaw.
Over the years, I’ve come to know and love rural ma and pa stores. I’ve gotten in the habit of visiting them when I pass through town to set up canoe trip shuttles. I can thank my ill-prepared canoeing buddies for that. They’d inevitably forget to pack certain food items or underestimate the amount of beer they’d need for a three-day river trip.
When packing for canoe trips on the lower Mohican River, I make it a point to forget donuts just so I can stop at Dale’s. You’d be hard-pressed to find better donuts anywhere.
For paddling excursions on Black Fork of the Mohican River, you can’t beat Stake’s IGA in Loudonville. Originally Gribble’s IGA, they have two things a lot of rural ma and pa markets lack — a decent selection of beers and a liquor store in the back room. The latter is opened during regular hours, but you have to flag down an employee to access it.
For canoe trips on the Walhonding and Muskingum rivers, I like to stop by Shopwise Market. This place reminds me of the tiny clown cars you see in the circus — the ones that cruise around the ring, come to a stop and six or seven clowns pile out. Shopwise looks tiny from the front. However, once you get inside, it seems to magically grow. Shopwise has everything you could possibly need, although the beer selection is somewhat limited.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention a few other ma and pa stores on my list: Big Fish General & Bait Store near Perrysville and Wills Creek General Store near Coshocton. The latter has a small campground out back and canoe access to Wills Creek.
Each of my favorite rural ma and pa stores boasts unique qualities, but they all have one thing in common — a personal touch. The owners and employees are inevitably warm and friendly. I find that comforting partly because, on canoe trips, a ma and pa store might be your last brush with civilization for days on end.
I just hope that, unlike their urban counterparts, they survive the onslaught of chain stores.