Times Past: The small-town charm of mom and pop shops

Published: 11/30/2018 2:59:53 PM

Remember “mom and pop” stores? Before the advent of chain grocery stores, there were small shops scattered across almost every town and village, and Franklin County was no exception.

The modern version is called a “convenience” store, where one can run in and buy bread, milk, coffee and other fast-turnover items. The original stores, by comparison, were usually run by a family whose members worked long hours.

Some were small grocery stores selling mostly nonperishable items like flour, sugar, baking powder, lard, toilet paper, coffee, tea and cigarettes. Some offered butcher shop services, too. Since most people had home delivery of bread and milk, most of these stores did not try to compete for that business.

During World War II, these stores could sell only in full compliance with the rules of rationing. With sugar in short supply, the mom and pop stores seldom had candy or gum to sell.

During the summer months, some of these stores could offer a few fresh vegetables and fruits provided by local farmers. I remember hearing of my parents getting up early to pick 40 quarts of red raspberries to be loaded onto the Jacksonville Stage truck to be taken from their Guilford, Vt., farm out to Elliot’s Store in Brattleboro, Vt. They also sold maple syrup the same way in the spring mud season.

In Greenfield, my first memories were at age 9. I was in the fifth grade at North Parish School, and at morning recess time, Bob Pryzby, a sixth-grader, would say “Who wants to go to the store?” Leaving the school grounds at recess time was permitted in those days.

Usually, several children would go to CY’s Store across from the Elm Street and Conway Street intersection. Coincidentally, the store was owned by Bob Pryzby’s father. I finally managed to have both a nickel and some courage one day, and I followed along. The store was a little crowded, but I got a popsicle and ate it on the way back to the school grounds. My hands were sticky until the lunch recess, when I could wash up before eating again. I’m sure that was the first popsicle I ever had.

Later in the school year, a friend introduced me to Mrs. Baker’s store on Cypress Street. It was closer to the school than CY’s Store, and we could go across a vacant lot directly from the playground to find a little path to the front entrance. Her store was smaller and darker than CY’s, but she had a magical assortment of penny candies, and her popsicles came in a wider selection of flavors. I think these two stores were more candy stores than grocery stores.

Mrs. Baker ran her store for many years. When she was in her 90s, she foiled a would-be robber by hitting him with a bottle of soda, and scared him out of the store. She triumphantly related that story to my husband and I. After that, the store was closed, but Mrs. Baker made the news by renewing her business license when she was 100 years old, just in case.

There were at least three other mom and pop stores along Conway Street, and people have memories of such stores on Davis Street and Chapman Street, too.

When I was in junior high school, in what is now the northern part of Federal Street School, we still had long lunch breaks so most students could run home and have lunch with their mothers. Students who took the bus like myself had a bag lunch to eat in the first 10 minutes of the 90-minute break. That gave us lots of time to explore or shop, or go to the public library. JC’s store was right next to the junior high school, in a corner of what is now the CVS parking lot. JC’s had great candy and popsicles, offering too much temptation.

After I married in 1960, I got acquainted with mom and pop stores in the south end of town. Mr. and Mrs. Holmquist owned the Mill Street market, the Kikoski family had the Deerfield Street Market, and the Ruggeri family had a couple of stores on Deerfield Street.

My mother-in-law loved the Deerfield Street Market for many reasons. They offered free delivery service for a while, and whenever my mother-in-law hosted a family picnic on a Sunday, she had an interesting Monday ritual. She would take the small amount of leftover hamburger meat down to the Deerfield Street Market and ask John or Anna Kikoski to weigh it, then add enough meat to make it exactly two pounds so she could make meatloaf. She was a good cook, but had to have exact measurements for everything.

John and Anna Kikoski indulged her needs graciously, and never teased her or let her know her request was a bit odd. By way of providing another example, I keep a copy of her oatmeal cookie recipe, which was given to her by a friend. It ended with the instruction to “Bake 12 minutes at 350 to 375 degrees.” She carefully changed it to read “Bake 12 minutes at 365½ degrees.”

If anyone that fussy could be happy with a local mom and pop store, you know they gave great service. I miss the camaraderie those stores offered to this day.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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