I’d already been inspired to write about corner stores — favourites from my past, why I think they’re such an important part of a community, etc. — when a friend mentioned that her son’s current career dream is to open a corner store. I guess I’m not the only one who romanticizes those little independent shops!
The treasured store of my childhood was a cramped, tiny place on the corner of Kalum and Loen, with age slanted walls and a slightly sunken, uneven floor, called Sandy’s.
It was the place of dreams. A little bell (or string of bells?) tinkled when you opened the old-fashioned door, announcing your entry.
The left hand wall was rainbow bright with rows of chocolate bars, Hubba Bubba, Big League Chew, Fun Dips, Popeye candy cigarettes, Gobstoppers, a big bucket of Dubble Bubble gums (You know, the ones with jokes inside their wrappers!), another of lollies, and tubs and tubs of penny candies.
A glass topped freezer chest showed off Jumbo Freezies, just 15 cents each! There were also — delight of delights — foil packs of Mad Magazine stickers.
Like so many adventures, the corner store was not without its dragon. The woman who ran it had fabulous dark hair with a white streak, a small mole, and a personality like the Queen from Snow White. Though my adult brain tells me this was probably not intentional, she terrified me.
The root of my irrational fear? Her legendary temper. One day, pennies sweating in my hand, I was admiring the treats, deliberating about what to splurge on. (It was a huge decision because having funds was a great feat.) As I studied, I became aware of how sticky my coins were, so I dropped them into my pocket, planning to let them dry until it was time to buy.
Like an eagle on an unsuspecting mouse, the woman swooped down, grabbed my shoulder in her talons, and berated me for being a thief. I was flabbergasted. I hadn’t stole. I wouldn’t! I managed to convince her (since my pocket only held money) and I lived to shop another day.
The next time I shopped, she’d apparently forgotten the incident that still burned in my memory. I got my candy carefully, approached the counter with trepidation, and proceeded to count out my money. Tongue-tied and nervous, I miscounted (error in HER favour, I have to point out) and suddenly she was yelling again. “If you’re too young to count, you’re too young to come into this store!”
Well, that was worse than being accused of stealing. I was nine. I counted perfectly well, thank you very much, except when I was scared out of my mind!
In Grade 8, I moved out of the horseshoe and for three years, Thornhill Grocery (now the Thornhill Meat Market) was the place for me and my friends’ ketchup chips, taters, green apple, and small containers of white milk cravings. I still have to buy taters there occasionally for old time’s sake.
As a young married who worked evenings, I loved the Coppersides for late night groceries.
My children’s special corner store wasn’t on a corner at all — good old Wayside Grocery on Tetrault. My kids adored the “green tin roof store” for its huge ice-cream cones.
Sadly, it’s long closed down — so thank goodness Chill opened up. The Southside has another fun one, too — the Kawrner Store on Haugland and Kalum. It even has a Filipino food stand.
To this day I don’t know if what I appreciate most about corner stores is how they contribute to keeping neighbourhoods unique and vibrant, or how they’re a link to my childhood self and the adventure and fun a trek to the store always was.
Let’s call it a tie: I like how they connect me to my community and feed memories. Corner stores are just fun!