Garry came back from the deli with news. Lance and Betsy have sold the place and are retiring. Someone else is taking over.

Quaker Deli and its friendly and generous owners were among the very first people to welcome us to the valley more than 16 years ago. Until we got our feet under us and began to know our way around, it was a required stop in our daily rounds. They make great sandwiches and sell quality cold cuts. And they always know how we like it sliced.


But time has had its way with them, as it does with us all. It’s what happens nowadays to almost all “mom and pop” shops. In this case, it’s not a lack of business. It’s simple tiredness. The kids don’t want the business. Mom and pop don’t want to spend all their remaining years on their feet. So, they sell.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if only whoever takes over the place would keep it as what it is … a place to pick up a few necessities without going into town. Where you can buy a great lunch, made for you. Buy a lottery ticket or whatever. Most of the new owners of these shops are immigrant families. They see a small business as a ticket to the Dream of America.


They don’t mind the long hours and hard work. But they don’t necessarily maintain the place in any way that resembles how it was. They go more heavily into higher volume, bigger profit items — like lottery tickets and cigarettes. They stop selling food and making sandwiches. This has happened to every little deli or mini grocery sold since we’ve lived in the Blackstone Valley. If it happens here, we will have to go into town for everything. The last convenience store will be gone.

I have heard over and over again that mom and pop stores are disappearing because we don’t support them, but that’s not necessarily true. It may be true sometimes, in some places. In this case, Lance and Betsey have plenty of business, maybe more than they can comfortably handle. All the truckers stop there to buy lunch. It’s the only place at this end of town where you can get an emergency supply of eggs or half-and-half.

The problem is that — not unreasonably — their kids have different dreams. They don’t want to run the family deli. They want a job where they can sit at a desk and go home without worrying about the business.


Small business are nonstop work. Buying, selling, bookkeeping. Ordering supplies. Tracking sales and figuring out what you should buy in greater or less quantity … or just stop selling entirely. The shop may be closed, but there’s always work to be done. I’m sorry to see them leaving and we will miss them very much. But I understand. I couldn’t do it.

Among many other reasons, this is why we need immigrants. They will happily do the jobs we can’t or won’t do. Think about that the next time you begin to rail against newcomers to our shores.

Do you want that job? Could you do it? Would you?

19 thoughts on “NEW MOMS, NEW POPS”

  1. When we moved into our area we had a lovely old couple run the local store, selling all sorts of things, at Halloween and Christmas they would hand out candy to the children and if you were short of money, they didn’t mind, they knew you would drop it in at another time. Then they retired and we went through owner, after owner, after owner. We now have new owners, who yes are new-ish immigrants and they have taken it back to the Mum and Dad store, with most of the essential items, sandwich, milk, bread, but have expanded with Movie rental and magazines and stuff (although that is mostly being phased out now-a-days). But they are always pleasant and always a great stop for Friday night fish and chips for take out………alcohol is strictly sold in specialist shops here, not deli or mixed business, same with lotto.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are lucky to have even ONE store like that surviving. These little shops used to be everywhere. In every town and village. There were always big grocery stores. They weren’t really in competition. If you were shopping for a week of supplies, you went to the big store. If you ran out of milk, needed sandwich meat or soda or a meatball sandwich, you went to the little store. They existed in the same towns for many long years.

      The problem really isn’t lack of customers. It’s that no one wants to do that much work for so little return. Those little shops are open long hours, usually 6, sometimes 7 days a week. It’s a lot of standing, bookkeeping, ordering, managing. Just … a LOT of work. So the owners get to retirement age and they want to put their feet up and relax. The kids don’t want to do that much work, though I suspect some of them live to regret it later. And the little mom and pop stores disappear.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember a small shop around the corner where we once lived. It was run by an older lady. She gave it over to a young man with family who continued it for a few years, but he decided he wanted something bigger and moved on to open a small supermarket. After another couple of years, he eventually gave up, as he was not doing business. The little corner shop was useful, but it is a small town and was only for bits and pieces. Where we live small shops like that are no longer. We have two main supermarket chains and they have the complete Swiss sales business in their hands. Mr. Swiss and I were talking and discovered that our local town was full of opticians. The boutiques are closing one by one and my favourite clothes shop which closed down, has now been taken over by the local book store that also now sell other stuff. Online stores have become the death of the small shops in our area. And our village – forget it. The last little shop closed about 15 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have lots of small shops, but they are either highly specialized — beauty salons, place that do fingernails, or those former convenience stores that are now all cigarettes and beer — they don’t even sell newspapers, so they aren’t much use to anyone and certainly aren’t personal. The owners are just looking to see how they can maximize sales and move on to something bigger and better.

      We have just one remaining independent bookstore in the entire valley and it’s lovely. I did a reading there when my book was still new and I though maybe I could sell it. It’s everything a book store ought to be, but I’m sure when the current owner gets tired, it will be gone. There are a couple of big chains at the mall, but it’s not a real bookstore. They sell more DVDs and gadgets than books. Anything you want, they have to order for you. If I wanted to order it, I’d have bought it online. Which is what I wind up doing. What’s especially ironic is that Barnes & Noble has a big online presence as well as big shops in malls. The shops in the mall sell the same stuff as the online store — but it’s MUCH more expensive to buy it in the store. Same company. Same item. About 40% more expensive. And they wonder why the stores aren’t doing well.

      It’s sometimes hard to know whether the online stores killed the brick-and-mortar stores, or they brick-and-mortar stores committed suicide.


  3. I guess people have loved the idea of ‘office jobs’ not knowing that having your own business is honestly better. Unless of course the pay is high, but even if it’s high, the time, effort. Etc vs. time spent with family can be ignored by some.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think they just don’t want to do that much work for such a small reward. They are off to college and hopefully, to better-paying careers that give them weekends off and benefits. I don’t blame them, though you may be right. Those career jobs are thin on the ground these days and anything but secure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am sad for you to read that you will miss this special place and of course even more the owners. Running a small business is hard and this kind of small convenience store is even more difficult. Like you, I favor them to any big supermarket whenever possible. But all over the country and also in France they close when the current owners get tired. I would have loved to run a bookstore when I was younger and even made serious plans about it. But the reality is that you need solid financial backup when you start because it’s hard to break even and even more to make a profit. For a while, at least.
    Of course, I can only agree with you when you mention immigrants. This country remains my very favorite because of the way it grew. Mistakes were made, some bigger than others, but the fact that you can leave a place once called home and find your home in the United States is still unique in the world.
    I hope that Lance and Betsy will find someone (s) to take over. And that they will learn how you like your cold cuts sliced.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marilyn and I will stop in to spend some personal moments — including thanks — with Lance and Betsy before they leave the store. Lance and Betsy remind me of the folks who ran local stores when I was a kid. It was a time when everyone knew your name and what you liked.
      7-11’s are handy but not the same thing.
      Another slice of disappearing Americana. Hold the mayo.


    2. They have already sold the place. It’s quite successful. They’ve done a great job. But they want to retire and the kids don’t want it. So …

      I guess we’ll see. All the other little stores like it have changed hands in recent years. None of them sell food anymore. All lottery tickets, cigarettes and beer. The stores are there, but they are nothing like they were … and since we don’t buy beer or cigarettes … and when I remember, maybe two lottery tickets a year? I can’t see that we’ll be doing much business there. The big, in-town supermarkets will be the only option. It’s the end of an era, for real.


  5. I would love to own a place like that. But you can bet I would be hiring immigrants- not to cut corners, but because of their strong work ethic.


  6. The immigrant job question is too close to politics right now, and I’m avoiding that topic at all costs. Too depressing. 🙂 But, I’ll tackle the subject of a beloved store changing hands. We had one of the oldest small grocery stores in the country here, Tuttles Red Barn. It had passed down from generation to generation, but the remaining brother and sister were both in their 60’s and none of their children were interested in working seven days a week. It sat vacant for a couple of years and then was bought by Tendercrop Farm from your part of the area. It was rehabbed but not dramatically changed, and it is better than ever. Here’s hoping your Mom and Pop keeps fulfilling your needs. 🙂


    1. Sadly, I’m pretty sure that’s not the way it will be here, mostly because this area doesn’t have enough population to attract most chains. It’s fairly straightforward, really. This area is exurban a nd not rich. It’s the same reason shopping isn’t good. Why we don’t have places like Costco. There’s nothing political about it. It’s simple profit and loss. The 2008 crash was devastating to this area.


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