While on an assignment this summer, I drove by this old store in Belvue, Kansas, daily. It's not just a general store. It is The Belvue General Store. I thought it had potential as a subject, but it wasn't until early evening on this particular day, when the buildings across the street were reflected on the front windows, that I stopped. I did not "work" the store. I did not walk all around. I positioned myself and took only one shot -- the last on my roll of 120 in my Diana+. Somehow I knew that would be enough.
The good news is that the building's owner has put in new windows and appears to be renovating the building and the one attached to it. I seriously doubt it will be a general store. I thought about when this general was the place to do one's shopping -- probably from scoops to nuts. Now, the residents have to drive approximately 15 miles in either direction to find a grocery store.
We have always had a need for a store close by. There is a nice, small market within walking distance to my house. It used to be an IGA (like most locals we refer to it as Igga). It was built in the 50s, and is quaint by modern grocery store standards. Whether you call it a bodega, mini mart, corner store, or convenience store, they serve our local needs.
I know a woman whose favorite store is a Walgreen's. She says she does almost 90% of her shopping there -- from prescriptions to groceries. When she travels, the first place she locates is a Walgreen's. These stores exemplify the corporatization of convenience stores., like Quik Trips and the rest of their ilk.
I'm making no value judgement about whether such chain stores are better or worse than the mom and pop stores that used to used to be close by. It is what it is.
Still, seeing a place like The Belvue General Store reminds me of the loss of such places. They served a need. Now they don't. My paternal great-grandparents lived in a small place called Illmo, Missouri, which was part of Scott City. The name was derived from its location in Missouri, by the Mississippi River, and across from the Illinois border. There was a store not very different than The Belvue. My Dad remembers is as The Model Grocery (notice the The). It was next door to Roth Hardware. I have since discovered it was owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Held. I'm sure they were friends with my Granny and Pop. Here's a photo I found online:
One of the stories about my great-grandmother was time time Models' delivery boy knocked on her back door and wanted to know if she had any canned green beans (or some such item) that she could part with. The store had run out, and the owner knew Granny always had a well-stocked pantry. She sent the boy back with a sack full, knowing full well that she and the owners would settle up the next time she stopped by.
This is the kind of story that couldn't happen today. Why, what if there were razor blades hidden in those cans? Perhaps 50 years from now, people will have stories to tell about their local chain store. Maybe like John Updike's "A&P." It's all part of what William Carlos Williams termed "the local" and our own personal realities.