NEWER MOMS AND POPS – Marilyn Armstrong

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 18 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

22 thoughts on “NEWER MOMS AND POPS – Marilyn Armstrong

  1. Little stores like that are so valuable. In this part of the world they are mostly run by Mexican immigrants, but much the same as yours. It will be very sad if you lose this one!

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  2. It happens here as well, but the smaller family business close because the property has been sold, or as you say, there is no one interested to continue in the family. We have no shops in our villlage and have to go elsewhere, one of the reasons why I had to get a car. Shops that close are becoming restaurants I noticed

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    • We have hairdressers and manicure shops … and a few second-hand clothing outlets and barber shops. Otherwise, there are a couple of grocery stores, pizza shops, donut shops, a couple of banks, and ONE lumber yard. The lumber yard is the only really USEFUL store in town — along with the grocery. I suppose the rest depends on if you are really fond of bad pizza and donuts. There are a few terrible restaurants and many, many churches. I think there’s are two dentists too. Everything else is in another town, much of it quite a distance away. If you don’t drive, you simply can’t get there. I am grateful for Amazon because there’s a lot of stuff we can’t otherwise get. Even in the rather distant malls, there are a lot of missing shops.

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  3. I found myself in a tiny, tiny rural settlement yesterday — the kind I expect to be little more than an abandoned garage and overgrown war memorial — and discovered it has a thriving convenience store run by two Indian brothers quite new to NZ. They continue to run the store much as the previous owners, but have added a range of new fillings to the (locally) famous pies — chicken korma, beef vindaloo, saag paneer. Apparently they are hugely popular with the locals.

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  4. This is happening everywhere around me, too. Some very old family owned stores have had to sell — or at least try — because the kids don’t want to low profit margin and the headaches and their folks wanted a better future for them, maybe until this moment. My town is a mom-and-pop store.

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    • Bringing in immigrants to take over the small shops has also helped turn this from an entirely white town to a modestly diverse mix. It used to be Garry and me — we WERE the diversity. Now there are a lot more people and hopefully, that will be a good thing. For a long time, the town was predominantly Dutch with a mix of French Canadian. That has been slowly changing.

      I’m not even sure “mom and pop” want the kids to go into that business. They sent them to college so they could move on out of the shop … and that’s what they are doing.

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  5. We made a similar discovery right where we live in France. We have two bakeries within 300m from each other and our house. In France, a good bakery ALWAYS has customers. The one nearest to us was in the hands of a terrible couple when we arrived here and after two or three unpleasant experiences we always went to the other shop with wonderful bread and a smile for the customer. Then, about 2 yrs ago, the ‘Arabs’ took over the bakery down the road. They worked very hard, had and still have very long opening hours (but Saturday which would be OUR day of choice for buying something a bit extra but they are closed). They also – in now time – had an established faithful clientele, the mounted a few tables and installed a very good coffee machine and they are doing a great business…. What a joy to see. One day they asked me ‘Since you’re a neighbour, why don’t you buy more often from us’ and I told them that I’m a very faithful client and am very happy with the other bakery, but that I DO like their ware too…. And you know what? They smiled and said: There should be more clients like you.

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    • I wish we had ONE good bakery! There are many in Boston, but none here — except in the groceries themselves — at all. Nothing in the world smells as good as freshly baked bread.

      The Indians and Pakistanis who have taken over many of the small businesses that would otherwise have closed do a great job. They work really hard, they are polite and eager to please. They remember that being nice to customers makes a big difference, something American seems to be forgetting!

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      • …. and sadly, is long forgotten here in the greater Paris region. Which, btw, is also one of the main reasons for us to turn our back to this country. We always have a cultural shock when returning from Switzerland or UK to F….. A smile costs nothing and makes ppl happy…. A thank you or please is a joy – why not make more use of those little words? I can’t fathom why politeness and kindness have fallen by the wayside – which is, I hasten to add, not How we knew France from many years of travelling, visiting before. It is a phenomenon of those hyper large & super busy metropoles…

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