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What is a Mom and Pop Store?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Mom and pop stores are businesses that are owned and operated in a single location. Rather than being part of a national chain, the store offers a shopping alternative to consumers who want to deal with businesses that are local to a given city or town, and where the owners of the business are established members of the community. While the proliferation of huge retail chains have reduced the consumer market for independent stores considerably, many of these locally owned businesses continue to operate and even to thrive in today’s economy.

One time honored example of this type of store is the local general store. In decades past, just about every small town contained a business district that was anchored around a locally owned general store that would offer a selection of canned goods, dry goods, fabric, and other common household needs. It often also functioned as one of the social hubs in town, as people would have the chance to visit with one another while they shopped.

Another common example of a mom and pop store was the corner drugstore. Usually owned and operated by the same family for generations, this type of corner store would provide not only prescription medications, but also a selection of over-the-counter drugs, various gifts and notions, comic books, and even a soda fountain. In many instances, the druggist or pharmacist would be the proprietor of the store as well, and would be a well known figure in the community. As with the general store, the locally owned drugstore would often function as a center for social activity in the community.

Today, the mom and pop store still thrives in a number of forms. Some are found in neighborhood business districts and are intended to meet consumer needs for a limited geographical area. These often include locally owned coffee houses, pizzerias, and cafes. While reduced greatly in numbers, there are still bookstores, drugstores, and even general merchandise stores that are very similar to the old fashioned general store.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon932649 — On Feb 13, 2014

It's the small, local business, often family owned, usually has one location, that is getting squished by the big name, big money corporations.

There is such a business near me that's been doing business locally in our community since 1941. That's 73 years. They've been struggling for the last five to nine years. if you have such a store near you, spend your money there and help support it if the store offers value and convenience to you.

By seag47 — On Feb 18, 2013

I know that big chain stores have pharmacies that can offer prescriptions for just $4. Can mom and pop stores do this, or is this a service only big franchises can provide?

I hate to be a part of what is putting smaller stores out of business, but if I can get my medicine cheap, I'm going to. I just don't make enough to pay extra in support of small mom and pop stores.

By Perdido — On Feb 17, 2013

@cupcake15 – It certainly is rare to find stores like this still in business. I happen to live in a county that still has a mom and pop store on the town square, and it looks like it is something right out of the fifties!

They still have their original soda fountain and milkshake maker. To me, their shakes and drinks have more flavor and are worth so much more than the kind you buy in convenience stores. They are fuller and thicker.

This store also has a candy counter. Instead of selling candy bars, they sell loose candies in jars that you can scoop into a bag, and you can get however much you want. The price is by weight.

By lighth0se33 — On Feb 16, 2013

My grandparents were literally the mom and pop who owned the store in their community years ago. My mother learned to work a cash register at a young age, and she spent most of her time there after school.

Bigger chain stores eventually came to town and put them out of business. They were ready to retire by then, but still, it was sad.

By kylee07drg — On Feb 15, 2013

I live in a tiny town, and the mom and pop store here has a little bit of everything. It's really nice not to have to drive twenty miles to get gas, a snack, or some over-the-counter medicine.

The couple who owns the store decided what to sell, and they thought of everything that people might need urgently and tried to keep it in stock. It's awesome to be able to walk down the street and pick up some headache medicine or a bag of flour, and if I'm about to run out of gas, it's great not to have to run on fumes to the nearest big station.

By anon262951 — On Apr 22, 2012

Many people (affluent?) overlook the outrageous prices that mom and pop stores charge, not to mention the low wages/fringes they pay to their employees. Often poor people are their customers and employees who would be much better off shopping and working for the Walmarts of the world. I read somewhere that low income people save an average of $2500 a year shopping at Walmart.

By subway11 — On Sep 18, 2010

Sunshine31- I remember in the Seinfeld Mom and Pop episode, Jerry played by Jerry Seinfeld had to take a bus to Parsippany New Jersey because a mom and pop store took his sneakers. He rode the bus with Kramer.

I always thought that that show was so funny. It poked fun at everyday things that we could all relate to.

By sunshine31 — On Sep 18, 2010

Greenweaver-I think that many mom and pop stores go out of business because of the influx of big box retailers and grocery stores.

Many times these mom and pop businesses can not compete because these larger retailers have more buying power with suppliers and can offer more competitive prices, far lower than the neighborhood mom and pop store.

Stores like Target and Wal-Mart offer a lot of convenience but do not offer the personalized service that you get at a mom and pop store.

By GreenWeaver — On Sep 18, 2010

Cupcake15- In many communities in New York City, a mom and pop store is referred to as a bodega. Bodega is a Spanish word for store.

These bodegas are family owned stores where you would get some groceries. There was a nearby bodega in my neighborhood growing up and I would be able to get snacks afterschool and put it on my mother’s account and she would be the bill at the end of the week.

Mom and pop stores bring the community together because often the owners know the customers by name which lends to a certain level of charm and sense of community.

By cupcake15 — On Sep 18, 2010

The mom and pop store by my house is called Allen Drugs. It has been in business for about sixty years. It is a pharmacy that also has an old-fashioned diner restaurant attached.

They usually have lunch specials and sell the most delicious milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwich. I think that a lot of these mom and pop stores bring about a lot of local color to the area and make the neighborhood more appealing.

This store has been an institution for about sixty years. I hope they never go out of business.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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