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Village general store

Village convenience store

When I came to the farm six years ago, there was a second, slightly bigger store, actually called the General Store. It was sold, managed badly by the new owners, and soon went out of business, and Isabel’s mini-emporium of necessary stuff became the last store standing for 10 miles around. It’s a three-minute walk down the road—the farm is right on the edge of the village—and I’ve gone there for this or that, including picking up the mail, most of the days that I’ve been here. It doesn’t have a particularly quaint, rustic country store look, but it does the job! Isabel had been running it for decades, knew everybody, and her easy blend of diplomacy, discretion and informative chat made it a news hub for the area (no small thing: you find out the rural life is all about what people are up to). And she had a sharp eye for country retail. As I slowly found out with some amazement (coming from a land of endless stores), she managed to pack just about everything you had to have NOW into one small space. A 3-inch drain plug, gear clamp, 2-stroke motor oil, Kikkoman Japanese soy sauce, photocopies, if you really needed it, chances are it was in there. I used to joke (well, I was serious) that on one tiny, 2’x4′ section of wall, she had 90% of the most useful stuff in the giant hardware store in town. Her strategy was pretty simple, keeping tabs on exactly what her customers, farmers and cottagers, and the more “city” type commuting folk living in the village, needed again and again. Combined with my not driving, Isabel’s efficiency encouraged the growing make-do-or-do-without part of my tiny farm experience. It’s startling how much extra junk you don’t really need to buy. For minimalist one-stop shopping: 4 stars! :)

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7 Comments

  1. It is funny how the smaller the store, the more useful the contents. I am constantly surprised that the small hardware stores are 10x more likely to have the esoteric thing I need than the big boxes. It makes you wonder what the larger stores are putting in all that space that apparently isn’t useful at all!

  2. excellent summary, great blog so glad i found you! when i go into a great big monoculture box store, a – i can never find what i NEED, b – never find someone to help  c- then somehow walk out with a random useless impulse purchase…sigh. so i try to stay away and go to local small guys.

  3. It’s amazing what you can find in these little stores in rural areas.  Our local hardware store is in a gas station and they have stuff I can’t find at the Big Box stores.  Amazing.  And their employees are super nice and know everything they have and where it is.  

  4. You are very lucky to have such a good local store.  The last one in my town went out of business 4 years ago, and there are exactly zero stores now within a 15 mile radius.  We’re no longer living in a rural area.  We’re in the boondocks!

  5. We have a little teeny tiny store about 1/2 mile down the road and like your’s she carries everything this little hick valley wants…beer, hotdogs, movie rentals, diapers, icecream, gas, and ammo!!!  Long live the hicks, lol! Kim

  6. DennisP

    We live a few miles outside a small town in Wisconsin.  On the east edge there is an independently owned hardware store.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out how they manage to cram so very much “stuff” into that store.  Occasionally I will walk up and down between the shelves marvelling at  the immense variety of goods they carry.  And then there is so much more in back and up in their attic.  I have no clue as how they keep track of their inventory.  Their prices are higher than the big box stores, but they always have heavy traffic every time I go there.  It’s the easiest place I know to spend money.

  7. Martin

    Loved your blog- Small hardware stores where  the floors seem 200 yrs old and you feel welcomed are such a hard fine.  I live on a farm in the country myself and we have store like that around here- One of my favorite things about the store are the hot dogs they sell (You fish them out yourself) or when the own make some pull pork- It’s more like you are eating at someones kitchen than at 7-11- the flooring, welcoming attitude, the feeling like no question is stupid- it’s nice.  My wife as a blog up about country life- furnaceford.blogspot.com she shares some of these stories.

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