Letting Off Steam: Demise of Mom and Pop shops


So long, it’s been good to know ya, mom and pop stores throughout our ever-changing country. Please, don’t start lecturing me on the inevitable progress of civilization or the need to change for the greater good, blah, blah blah. It’s all pure bull-pucky, if you ask me. As I despondently witness more and more small family-owned businesses fade into the sunset, I experience a profound sense of nostalgia and loss.

“Dad’s Bike Barn,” once located on 190th Street in Redondo Beach, bit the dust a few months ago. Sure “Dad” died some years ago; however, his devoted son took over the shop and continued the family business. Today, in its place sits a small, upscale fitness center promising to turn me into a hard body for only $59 a month. There had been a bike shop there since I was a snot-nosed, wise guy kid of age 9 (I’m 67 now, but don’t look a day over 66).

I don’t want to over glorify the past, but I swear if I see another Starbucks go up where once stood a Dutch bakery, comic book store or country café, I’ll take a flame thrower to the place. Relax, I’m just kidding Homeland Security Department, call off your dogs—It’s a line from the great Al Pacino movie, “Scent of a Woman.”

Is there any sane person out there who believes we don’t have enough coffee joints to carry us through this millennium? I’m afraid I’ll return home from yet another typical Vegas fleecing someday soon and there will be a new Starbucks in my back yard! If they never build another Starbucks, we will still have thousands more than we need.                                    Off the subject, does anyone remember the old saying, “that and a dime will get you a cup of coffee?” It’s been revised, “that and $12.75 will get you a hot peanut butter mocha cappuccino.” I digress.

As I see it, it’s just another nail in the coffin of the good old days. There’s nothing quite like walking into a family owned grocery store, with the employees ranging in age from ten to eighty-seven. There’s bashful little Timmy stocking shelves while sweet old Granny Bertha is sweeping up a broken ketchup bottle on aisle three while muttering obscenities under her breath. The entire family of nine diligently works in the market seven days a week and lives together upstairs over the store.

These vanishing institutions were once the backbone of the American way. Today it’s Walmart, McDonalds and Costco. Listen, I love all three, with their convenience, low prices and sheer volume of products. However, I truly miss the independent mom and pop stores with their folksy manner, hands on approach and down-to-earth style. When was the last time you saw a good old-fashioned junk store? Not a thrift or antique boutique, but a genuine “junk” store like the classic Sanford and Son junkyard.

Never let it be said that I whine about a problem without offering a solution. I propose a government stimulus package for “too small to fail” mom and poppers. The biggest banks received a “too big to fail” bailout with our money.  Let’s shake it up a bit and allow the big boys to go down the tubes and bail out Fred and Lamont Sanford so they can keep their junkyard open. Award Ma and Pa Rizzo an interest-free loan to keep their Italian deli afloat. We certainly waste enough money is this country on mind-boggling boondoggles and government scams to help their good-old-boys club. Save mom and pop and let the greedy, well connected suits fend for themselves.

I realize that will never happen, but it sure would cheer me up. There are still a few independent shops around my area. Whenever possible I buy from struggling family owned establishments, and I strongly suggest that you do the same. In fact, I think I’ll cruise down to Anita’s Donuts, located right next to Dad’s Bike Barn’s old shop. I’ll talk a little football with Justin the owner, have a freshly baked croissant and a cup of fresh, non-big chain coffee. His two small children might even be hanging out, doing their homework or watching cartoons in the back.

Letting Off Steam: Demise of Mom and Pop shops