Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stories at the Corner Shop

I've always loved local businesses, the stories, the creativity, the heroism. And I don't mind saying so—in fact, in my local newspaper last month:

February 18, 2014 Column: Confessions of a small-business fanatic

Jo Kadlecek
The Salem News

It started with flowers. Roses really, the color of cherry tomatoes, delivered fresh from the truck to living rooms or offices throughout my neighborhood. Veldkamp Florist had been around, it seemed, since forever, and my mom always called them whenever we had to go to a funeral or an anniversary party. I went to school with a couple of Veldkamp kids, but I sort of felt sorry for them: They never could go out for the basketball team or attend the winter dances. Christmas and Valentine’s Day were just too important for florists. I guess those Veldkamp kids needed to help trim the roses.

Flowers turned to root beer. My friend’s mom owned and operated one of the last existing A & W Root Beer drive-ins in our city, and one summer in high school, I needed a job. So, I car-hopped. I took orders and poured root beer. I watched my friend’s mom flip burgers, scoop ice cream and count money at the end of every day, hoping to take home enough to pay her light bills after she paid us. It wasn’t easy work, but it was hers.

I followed my nose throughout college and a short career in public education, in and out of bakeries owned by three generations of Millers, pizza joints run by Italian immigrants, and beauty shops operated by Millie and Jessica and CarolAnn. I liked going into these small places; they were homey and real and familiar. I liked seeing family photos taped to the cash register or handwritten message boards outlining the day’s choices when I walked in. Read MORE

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