The year was 1966. Dad would give me 55 cents to run across the alley to Moonwink Grocery. Mark, the store owner, would sell me a pack of Phillip Morris Filters in a box with a plastic top, knowing I was heading straight back home to give them to my father. I would also spend a nickel, my allowance delivered twice daily, on a candy bar. If dad wasn’t in a hurry, I might browse the comic books before I left.
Every neighborhood had a corner grocery within walking distance in the 1960’s. These were real mom-and-pop businesses, sometimes being run out of a building on the same property the owner had his house on.
Moonwink had other things going for it, too. It resided in a building with two other smaller store spaces. The local barber rented one, the other was frequently sitting empty.
Those were idyllic days. In my little Northeast Oklahoma town of Miami, there were no security cameras, bars on the windows, or height scales on the doors. Nobody would dare rob a neighborhood market in the daylight, and they closed up at 5:00.
The store owner would let you have things on credit, too, frequently not even writing anything down. He knew his customers were good for it.
In 1967, a new store opened in Miami. It was a Quik-Trip. It was also the harbinger of what would be a major factor in the death of neighborhood markets.
Corporate-driven chains, along with supermarkets, would quickly drive mom-and-pops out of business. While Moonwink survived the Safeway and IGA markets in town, since it was more convenient to walk to the store rather than drive uptown, customers began drifting away to the convenience stores that were open late at night. When I was in my hometown last, Moonwink’s lot held an apartment building.
The last mom-and-pop I remember being open was in my high school town of Pea Ridge, Arkansas in the late 70’s. One day at 5:00 sharp, they closed their doors (missing height scales) for good.