LJWorld.com weblogs Linda's Backroad Musings

Small Town Grocery Stores


The Kansas Sampler Foundation is a non profit organization with a mission to “preserve, sustain and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities.”

Each year they sponsor the Kansas Sampler Festival the first weekend in May. I’ve never attended this event but have heard so many good things about it. Maybe this year…

Anyway, I received an email recently requesting names of small towns who have recently lost their grocery store. I can’t help them with the request, but it got me thinking about our small grocery store when I was a kid.

We did our grocery shopping in Junction City at Sheridan's because Mom sold her eggs to the small store. I’m not sure on this, but I think the eggs bought most of our groceries. There was a meat counter in the back and a butcher that cut to order. Everyone knew us so it was fun to go into the store. For many years, Mrs. Sheridan was the checker. There were no bar codes, they remembered the prices of everything in the store.

I can’t remember where the candy was displayed in Sheridan’s. I do remember the candy at a tiny store near my grandpa. I think candy was all she had. That was the big deal when we visited Gramps—running to Shelton’s with a few coins for candy.

One of my husband's early, right out of high school jobs was delivering Royal Crown products to small town grocery stores. He said they were all similar. It would be interesting to trace his route and check on the stores. One store he visited was the Skiddy store—down the road from my cousins. The last time we were by Skiddy, it was only a ghost of a building.

Our contribution to a small town grocery store is,O'Bryhim's Thriftway a 4th generation grocery store in Overbrook. It has everything and the prices are competitive. And, they employ local young people who carry groceries to the car.


RoeDapple 6 years, 1 month ago

Back in the early '60's we lived about a block from Fergus Grocery at 12th and New York St. Not much selection but he kept plenty of treats on hand for the neighborhood kids.

Mike Ford 6 years, 1 month ago

My grandfather ran Ford's IGA in Baldwin City from 1952 to 1980. The Lawrence stores made him open on Sundays and when they expanded he smelled smoke and left the business. I went into the Overbrook store with my late mother to buy batteries on a photo trip through that area in June 2009. I will always remember my mom there.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 1 month ago

This reminds me of something from when I was very young. Except, I didn't realize I was very young. After all, I was maybe 9 years old, and my younger brother was about 6. So of course I wasn't very young, I was almost grown up compared with him.

We were walking back from the swimming pool in our home town, which was very small. A walk to anywhere in town is not very far there, not even when you're only 6.

As we walked past an old structure that had been a gas filling station built in maybe the 1920s, my little brother told me, "We need to stop and get some candy. He's my friend."

I hadn't known there was a store that sold candy there, and there was no sign for it, except for one in the door that said "Open".

We went inside, and the only thing there was one glass counter that displayed many different kinds of candy for sale. I think almost all of it was for sale for one cent, and the rest of it was five cents.

A very old man came and stood behind the counter. He waited very patiently as my little brother very slowly and deliberately made his decision about exactly what piece of candy he would buy with his one cent.

I thought my little brother was very stupid to think that the old man was his friend, because it was a store, the store was there to make money, and my little brother was a customer. But I didn't say anything.

And I don't think the old man said anything either. The only one of us that said anything at all was my little brother. He said, "I want that piece," as he pointed to the candy he wanted to buy for one cent.

I don't remember if I bought any candy that day or not. But, I probably did.

I didn't think much of the event at the time.

I think it was less than a year or two later that the candy store closed because the old man had died, and that building was never a store again.

Many years later, I realized that I had been wrong, and my little brother had been right. The old man could not possibly have been making any money by selling a very few pieces of candy for one cent each.

The old man had opened the candy store so that a very few children would come in and buy one piece of candy for one cent, and those children were just about the only people that ever came to visit him.

He never minded waiting very patiently while his only visitors made their decision about how to spend one cent.

I had no idea how right my little brother was when he said, "He's my friend."

lily 6 years, 1 month ago

There was a small store around 9th and Connecticut. I remember that as a kid. Also Sommer's downtown between 10th & 11th.

Linda Hanney 6 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for the responses. I've enjoyed reading about neighborhood grocery stores your past. Thankfully, there are Farmers Markets where we can visit with owners and even barter.

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