What is a Neighborhood Store?
Neighborhood stores are locally owned businesses that are designed to meet the demands of consumers who live in close proximity to the establishment. This focus on local needs allows the store to carry merchandise that may not be readily available from any of the larger chain stores. In recent years, the idea of local stores designed to meet local needs has begun to attract more attention, and the stores have enjoyed something of a resurgence in communities around the world.
Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, the vast majority of retailers operating in any given community were local businesses. In rural portions of the United States, the neighborhood store would often provide a number of goods under one roof, ranging from canned goods and other food items to small kitchen implements. These general stores would also often be a social center for a small community. Men and women could gather during the day to make purchases and discuss issues of mutual importance. Children also enjoyed the neighborhood store, as it provided a place to obtain soft drinks and candy after school or during the long days of summer.
The United Kingdom also was home to the idea of the neighborhood store. Stores in villages would often include such services as groceries as well as access to the post under one roof. In some areas of the country, a postmaster or postmistress would also serve as a local official with the ability to grant or renew various types of licenses. As in the United States, the village neighborhood store was often essential to the social interaction of the community, with only the local parish church offering similar opportunities to meet and socialize.
With the advent of chain stores in many nations, many neighborhood stores were unable to match the range of goods or the prices offered by the larger retailers. This led to a period of decline for the neighborhood store in a number of communities around the world throughout the middle and latter part of the 20th century. By 1990, large retailers were building new facilities in rural as well as suburban and urban areas, a process that reduced the number of locally owned business even further.
In recent years, some communities have made efforts to revitalize the concept of the neighborhood store as an essential component of local culture. This has led to some opposition of allowing large retailers to build facilities within the community, while also offering incentives for local businesses to settle in the area. In a number of countries, associations and cooperatives among small business owners have made it possible for locally owned businesses to pool resources and command volume discounts on various goods and services, allowing them to be more competitive with chain store retailers. As more people become interested in returning to a format that encourages the creation of neighborhood businesses that are within easy walking distance, there is a good chance that the idea of the neighborhood store may regain at least some of its former glory, once again serving as a social center as well as a convenient retailer for those living nearby.
Where I grew up, there was two blocks of nothing but neighborhood stores. We had a neighborhood hardware store, thrift store and cafe, among other places. I think the only chain store we frequented was a grocery store, mostly because the prices were a little lower. We knew all of the owners, and felt bad when they decided to go out of business.
Now a major chain department and grocery store has decided to build what they call a "neighborhood market" about three blocks from my house. I don't know if it will be anything like the little stores I used to visit. It will definitely be convenient, but convenience alone can't replace the feel of a good mom and pop store.
My neighborhood store was called Reinker's, and it was run by a family of German immigrants. They were the only place in town that made fresh ham loaf, but you had to order it the same day you planned on cooking it. They also had a small soda bottling plant next door, so we could always get inexpensive drinks to go along with the candy we bought. Mr. Reinker would also greet my mom whenever we walked in the door and then pat me on the head. You just don't find service like that any more.
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