Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Strip-Mining the Suburban Archaeology #4: "Sam the Butcher"

The illustration “Sam the Butcher” was inspired by both my recollections of everyone's favorite beefhacker from The Brady Bunch and a recent “discovery” of the Linden Hills area of Minneapolis. While doing some sales calls for my line of greeting cards in Linden Hills, I came across a quaint and cool butcher shop called “Clancey's Meat & Fish.” Shortly after, I discovered a shop across the street that sold baked goods. ONLY baked goods. And then a toy store. After a couple more similar finds did I start to feel I had time-warped back to some kind of Twilight Zone of non-chain stores that each specialized in just one thing. And I was WALKING from one to the other. There were pleasant smiles and kind hellos. It was crazy to me and I was jealous. See, I don’t have these kinds of places where I live.

We all know (unless you are five years old and/or have been existing under the ocean for your whole life) that the independently-owned “Mom & Pop” specialty store has been dealt the fate of the dodo bird by the likes of the “Big-Box Stores”. Depending on whom you talk to and where you talk to them, this could be viewed as either a good thing or a bad thing.

While Mom & Pops, walkable communities, and co-op grocery markets still exist by-and-large in Middle-Suburbia (my term for the aged, gridded-street, early-to-mid-century suburbs located on the edges of most urban centers); they have been entirely eradicated from or left out completely in the planning of contemporary development. While the idea of the shopping mall and subsequently the big-box store was to provide the masses with efficient, one-stop-shopping models in step with the perceived convenience of the automobile, the resultant loss of the single-owner store has greatly left its mark on the overall fabric of communities.

I’m not sure most people see places like Linden Hills or the Bryn Mawr neighborhood as suburbs anymore. That's because the moniker has been associated these days mostly with places like Eden Prairie (where I live) or Maple Grove and the differences between these sorts of towns are as vast and wide as Sam the Butcher's quaint little shop and the Big Box Meat Zone.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

The last two mom & pop groceries closed here (Terre Haute, IN) a couple of years ago, and another got a cash infusion and went semi-big-box itself, to compete with the Kroger's chain up the street...

The one thing that we have lost, that you did not touch on in your article, is that our neighborhoods were filled with business OWNERS at one time; now "Sam the Butcher" would be working for Wal-Mart making just slightly more than minimum wage, instead of owning his own business and working for himself...