Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A sad twist in the path that the corner store was on

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When I was wee and light of limb, I remember running happily through a field of tall grass and wildflowers on my way to the local corner grocery store.

Mostly hammered out by the feet of young children, who were known to create shortcuts through the grassy fields rather than walk the concrete sidewalks, this pathway created a diagonal line straight to the store.

Often I was sent there for this and that, a small container of milk or perhaps a loaf of bread. And if I was lucky and Dad had wondrously dropped a bit of loose change into my palm as he sometimes did, it was also a marvellous opportunity to choose from a mouth-watering variety of heaven-sent delectables kept in glass jars by the cash register.

The elderly manager scooped the sponge toffee, the bubble gum and candy strawberries that kept various dentists in business in later years out of the jar one by one and placed them in a tiny paper bag. After running down the little aisle to get the bread and milk, I grabbed my treasure trove of sugar, ran back along the path through the grass and was home in minutes.

Today, there are fewer and fewer corner stores. With the advent of the gigantic superstores, driving to the grocery store in today's fast-paced life is more the norm. And with the growth of the suburbs, the folks downtown now complain they have been left out on a limb.

There is more variety today than ever before for many of us. Of course it is wonderful to have so many choices and incredible selections to choose from, and we are amazingly fortunate to have this kind of luxury in Canada. However, it also seems something is missing with the loss of the little corner store.

For one thing, you could walk there or run, if you were so disposed, and get there in no time flat. Without knowing it, you'd have gained two things -- fresh air and exercise. You'd have lowered your blood pressure and maybe your cholesterol levels to boot. And if a field with wildflowers happened to be nearby, you'd have enjoyed the benefits of Mother Nature along the way.

You could pick up just a few things, for perhaps that is all you really needed, and keep it simple. At the corner store, you did not end up horrified by an enormous, seven-foot-long gigantic bill or have to struggle for one of a zillion cards in your packed shoulder boulder-holder of a purse just to collect a few points on your next multimillion-dollar purchase.

You didn't leave saddled with bundles and bags of non-necessities that you've taken almost an hour to hunt for. You wouldn't have had to select and load them into an awkward, unwieldy cart whose wheels never seem to work and which threaten to send you careening into other shoppers who blithely block the aisles you are trying to negotiate.

The hunters of yesteryear had to forage in the forests and on the plains to bring home the bacon. Today, we are all hunters in the massive supermarket maze, having to tread to the far reaches of the store to search for basic staples like milk and bread.

And at the corner store you didn't need a massive, gas-guzzling vehicle just to transport the cartload of items you often end up with in order to feed a family for one week -- especially if you've been unfortunate enough to set out on this major expedition with an empty stomach.

Yes, a corner store would be mighty nice today sprinkled here and there throughout the city. And when it stops raining... I think I'll wave to my neighbours and hang our clothes out on the line.


Cheryl Gerard is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2013 A9

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