“Mom & pop stores are not about something small; they are about something big. … They are important not only for the food, drink, clothing, and tools they sell us, but also for providing us with intellectual stimulation, social interaction, and connection to our communities. We must have mom & pop stores because we are social animals.” ―
The Mom and Pop Store congers up images of Ike’s from the Waltons or Olsen’s Mercantile from Little House on the Prairie. These establishments have been the mainstay of cities and towns for as long as cities and towns have existed.
I had my own version of this as a child, but the place that stood out, was Quincey’s in Montrose Kansas. Quincy’s was one of two, almost identical establishments in this unincorporated town. The other was simply Roy’s. Both had a diner, a small grocery store and a gas station.
These were first located on old highway 36 across from each other. They were positioned to serve the truckers and cars passing through as well as the county residents. In the 60s, a bypass was built around Montrose and many other area towns so that traffic would not need to slow down when traveling cross-country. This was a serious blow to these small stores.
The solution? Build new establishments on the bypass at the edge of town, so Quincey’s and Roy’s built across from each other – again. My grandfather would have coffee at Roy’s regularly, but I knew Quincey’s better, because, for a time, my maternal grandmother and her twin sister ran the café at the bypass location.
The grocery store had some non-food items and could order on-demand items not in stock. A sort of Amazon, of its time. The proprietors had living quarters upstairs, but, since they also were farmers, had a house on the farm as well.
Pictures In My Mind
My earliest memories of either place was going to town and making the rounds with my grandparents. This was the at the intown locations. Montrose had a post office, a bank, a co-op, an elementary and high school, as well as a Methodist Church. My mother graduated from this school and married my father in the Church.
During the time when my grandmother helped run the café, on my summer visits, I would help wait tables for tips. I also stocked the soda (pop) machine, cleaned and did dishes by hand. I recall the galley kitchen that divided the store/gas station from the café. At one end the sink sat under a window looking out on the front. This enabled you to see when a customer pulled in.
On that same end were shelves with dishes, clean pots and pans. The opposite end had the stove, oven, refrigerator and pantry. There was a door that went out the back where I tied up the horse I rode from the farm to town. This mode of transportation was by choice. I loved taking the quiet backroads early in the morning.
The only photos I have are in my mind. This was before the age of digital photos, of course, and one did not just take photos of every day images. How I wish we did! They would make some great social media posts.
Remembering The Mom And Pop Store
In a recent conversation with a cousin, who’s grandmother, Opal, was my grandmother, Pearl’s, twin sister, we talked about the time when the sisters ran the café. Aunt Opal and one daughter lived upstairs as part of the arrangement. The food was serious home cooking. For the special you could get meat, potatoes and vegetables with homemade pie and coffee for 99c!
It was breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, especially during harvest time. Harvest brought in dusty farm workers from all around. Hungry and thirsty, they were ready for nourishment so they could get back to the fields. I was not raised on a farm, but I did get a good taste of life in a small farming community. It also gave me insight into the realities of running a retail business at this level. These experiences shaped many a life choice which included opting out of waiting tables!
What memories does this bring up from your past? Please share in the comments!