What ever happened to the Corner Store?

Do you remember your dad sending you to the corner store to buy milk and a pack of smokes? Where I grew up the corner store was just down the street and over a block. When dad sent us on an errand we got to spend the change on our own choice of candy. I have a lot of fond memories of collecting pop bottles to return for the nickel deposit and coming home with a horde of penny candy.
I grew up near a neighbourhood store like this one.But today, for many people, a trip to the “corner store” requires jumping in the mini-van and driving 10 minutes to the strip mall across the freeway just to pick up a loaf of bread. And forget the change, the candy costs more than the bread these days!

This is NOT my idea of a corner store!

When my wife and I were getting ready to settle down, thinking of having a family and dreaming of affording a back yard we started to think about how we wanted our kids to grow up. Not just how, but where was important too. We wanted to find a community that reflected some of the values we both grew up with in our respective small towns. Our list included the usual things like good schools and a nearby park. Surprisingly, for us both, the corner store was not too far down that list.

The ability to walk to the store with our kids is important in many ways. Look beyond the obvious things like fresh air and exercise and forget for a moment about saving the environment by not having to drive. Think about things like developing a sense of responsibility that kids learn when they are sent to the store with money in their fist and coming home with milk and bread. Think about the independence they gain by being able to hop on a bike and spend their allowance on a comic book.

Luckily, I live in one of those newer neighbourhoods where the developers and town planners (perhaps reluctantly) have recognized the need to provide a little more convenience in the convenience store concept. Our store isn’t just around the corner, and we had to wait a while before the site was build, but it is close enough to make it work. That’s far better than even in some more established neighbourhoods. It’s one of the things that drew us to Oakville, and West Oak Trails to begin with. My kids even at a young age, love going for a walk to the store. And some day, all to soon, I’ll be sending them off to the store with the instruction – “you can spend the change”.

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2 Responses to What ever happened to the Corner Store?

  1. Mike Lanza says:

    My father ran a neighborhood drug store when I was growing up. He knew *tons* of people in the area, so every time we were out, he would stop for at least a conversation or two to ask things like, “Is your mom feeling better?” or to give ad hoc advice like, “There’s definitely a bug going around Foxcroft School, so watch Tommy!”

    Of course, the “drug” part of his business went downhill (he got into home medical supplies, and that did very well) as huge mega-pharmacies became popular thirty or so years ago.

    So, people saved lots of money, but they definitely lost something when my dad quit being a pharmacist.

  2. Chuck Pletcher says:

    We didn’t have a corner store, per se, but my friends and I would always ride our bikes up to “Gabe’s Drugs” (a Walgreen’s predecessor) to buy baseball cards and a coke (and sometimes smokes for my sister). It was only a mile away, but was at the limit of where my mom would let me travel unchaperoned.

    I loved the ride through the neighborhood – we always took different routes to get there too. I was devastated when they closed down and were replaced by a pool supply store.

    Even as an adult, I always liked living near a small mom-and-pop convenience store. Our current home doesn’t have one nearby, but we do have a small downtown area with several shops and a couple grocery stores within walking (or biking) distance.