The local corner grocer was common in the 50s and 60s. Dad said, with taverns on three corners and a grocer on one, I had better make sure to enter the correct door. We didn’t shop once a week. The corner grocer was way more convenient. I was the convenience, the kid who shopped and delivered on demand. Five o’clock, on the dot, and I’d hear, “What’s for dinner?” Mom responded by giving me a couple dollars and instructions on what to purchase. Today’s purchase, a pound of American cheese, loaf of Wonder bread, can of Campbell’s tomato soup, and a returnable ½ gallon glass jug of whole milk with cream floating on top.
Opening the door a cow bell clanked and Dorothy suddenly appeared behind the counter, swept away from some other activity in the back of her house. One pound of American cheese please. Dorothy disappeared into the walk-in cooler and returned with a black, wax coated block of cheese. She sliced it while I reached carefully for a glass milk jug. American cheese is processed now and doesn’t taste or resemble anything like the Great American cheese of yesteryear. Milk is homogenized now. The cream is in there somewhere but it is all mixed up.
The corner stores demise
Supermarket chains and the cost of government regulation changed shopping habits. One-by-one local grocery stores disappeared; plate glass windows boarded up and stores converted into duplexes. With larger refrigerators and freezers we kept food an entire week or more. The supermarket had variety, like frozen Swanson TV dinners and pot pies. Prices were lower, but now, Mom shopped because the distance to carry groceries home made it too far for a daily trip. Besides, it wasn’t wise to send a child out of the neighborhood carrying cash.
Parents sent kids to a corner store. It was a chance to learn responsibility. Polite conversation with the grocer, picking out correct products, keeping money safe, calculating correct change, and delivering goods home without nick or breakage was a chore worthy of an allowance. The chore seemed like a good deal for a seven year old, when the entire chore lasted 15 minutes or less if running through the ally and back. Occasionally I could keep the change and purchase something for myself, like a Twinkie or a box of Milk Duds.
The corner store begins anew
After nearly fifty years, there is a movement back to shopping local. The local grocer has reinvented itself by adding more value. The new corner grocer is not only convenient; it is committed to helping change our life style by offering goods for healthier living. The benefits are wide ranging. Local grocers offer out-of-the-ordinary food, exotic and healthy alternatives, locally and strategically sourced products not easily found anywhere else.
I visited two local grocers recently; Kathy Navis, owner of Greens N Grains, Egg Harbor and Adam Goettlemen, owner of Healthy Way Market, Sturgeon Bay. Both grocers have a commitment to offer healthy products. How do I know? Because my products, Washington Island Honey and my Made to be Clean™ line of soaps and deodorants, are now available at these two locations. When concerned entrepreneurs like Navis and Goettlemen examine every ingredient asking about methods for processing, it is clear these grocers care about offering the best ingredients. The questions asked, “What do you use to scent the soaps?” “Is it an essential oil or fragrance?” “Can I sample your product?” shows a commitment to quality.
Who has time to read every ingredient on a label too small to see without magnifying glasses? Often customers only have a few minutes to get in and out of a store with something quick to fix for dinner. Knowing only quality products are offered for sale is reassuring.
Convenience and health
Statistically, the health problems in our society correlate to a lifestyle that demands convenience. Package food is inundated with GMO’s, additives, and preservatives that proliferate the food chain.
Convenience does not need to be unhealthy. Local grassroots entrepreneurs like Navis and Goettleman are changing society by bringing back the corner grocer with a new purpose. Specialty grocers look out for the people in its community, policing ingredients, and offering healthy alternatives to mass produced products containing fillers, sugars and overly processed ingredients. The new age grocer is looking out for overly packaged food that is chemically engineered to taste good.
Buying local products offers employment and economic return to a community. The big box companies offer the lowest possible price but the value of building a local economy is healthy for the consumer as well as the economy. No doubt, the choice to purchase healthy products and support a local entrepreneur will cost more but the return is far greater. The payback is in long term health, interesting food alternatives, and a reassurance that products are carefully sourced. The best part is convenience. There is a societal change happening as corner grocers continue to gain popularity and Sweet Mountain Farm is honored to take part.
Visit Greens N Grains located on highway 42 in Egg Harbor or Healthy Way Market at its new location on 3rd Avenue in Sturgeon Bay. Make sure you ask about Washington Island Honey from Sweet Mountain Farm and our Made to be Clean™ soaps and deodorants.