A vague but treasured memory of mine is a trip with my grandpa to his neighborhood convenience store to buy some milk. I couldn’t have been older than five, so it’s one of those delicate, dreamlike memories that fall away at the edges. The kind that if I could only remember a little bit more, I’m sure it would be a fascinating look into a lost world—one that I managed to live and breathe in just before it slipped into history.
Why was the trip so special? Because it was truly a neighborhood store—it wasn’t located in a commercial district but rather in the small settlement of Saga Hill on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. Called simply the Saga Hill Grocery, it was owned and operated by the Scherber family who lived in adjacent quarters adjacent.
Although the concept of the independently-owned store around the corner isn’t dead—I think of my neighborhood Späti in Berlin or a bodega in New York—it’s mostly extinct in less urban areas. I’d be curious to know, for example, how many neighborhood convenience stores dotted the shores of Lake Minnetonka from 1930 to 1980. I’d bet that not one exists anymore and that even if someone wanted to resurrect the institution, they’d be hindered by zoning issues. Will necessity return neighborhood store culture to our future world? I kind of hope so.
All of this came to mind the first time I drove past Jack’s Thrift Store on Highway 101 in Arch Cape, Oregon. Although his place isn’t a grocery store, it definitely operates in the spirit of convenience. This summer I had the chance to experience it first hand when our family convened for a weekend at the coast and rented a house down the road. For us he carried perhaps the most important staple: firewood. Best of all, Jack ran an on-your-honor system for any after hours firewood needs, of which my family has many.
Unfortunately, Jack’s store can be filed under the Not Long for This World category. Although in his 90s, he’d happily keep the shop going, but the landlord is turning it into some god awful tourist trap/museum. So before that travesty happens, stop by and have a chat with Jack, check out the business card board, and stock up on firewood.