Thursday, March 21, 2013

In The Big City


Main Street in my home town.
We’re in the big city this week, visiting colleges with my daughter and hanging out with my husband’s family. While we’re here, we're taking advantage of the shopping. If you’ve never lived in small town, you may not understand what a treat this can be. The closest chain store (other than the discount drug box store that’s in every town, no matter how big or small) is over an hour away from our home.

I appreciate our small town stores. The merchandise is unique, usually hand selected by the owners, and reflects the personalities they infuse in their shops. Last time I went shopping for my sister's birthday, I dropped in on Hope and Glory, a cute florist-slash-country-kitsch shop. Jerri, the owner, chatted with me about my sister, my kids, her kids, church and other random hometown happenings as I looked around and selected a few items. She even wrapped them up with pretty paper and ribbon so they would look nice. 

While in the Big City, my 17-year-old daughter was on the hunt for a prom dress. Of course, while we were out, I had to visit the local big chain bookstore. It was wondrous with rows and rows of books and best sellers, cute journals and fancy pens, even a coffee shop and free wifi.  But when I needed help finding a book, there wasn’t anyone to be found. When I finally flagged down someone walking around with a harried but official look, she told me she was busy with other customers and to please go to the service desk. When I went to the service desk, no one was there until the same harried and official lady came up to the desk to help the other three customers already in line.

Our Main Street has an independent bookstore called the Bookworm. It’s small and carries a few best sellers along with a couple locally published indie writers.  It also has an eclectic stock of small gift items, postcards, and locally crafted jewelry. They may not have every book stocked, but they’re happy to order whatever you need or want.

At one point, craving a pick-me-up, we stopped in at one of those chain coffee stores that are on every block in the city. No kidding—there are more of these coffee shops per square mile than we have cows in our ranch town. The coffee always tastes a little burnt to me, and the menu boards carry the same stock items. It’s all good though, and the product is predictable and tasty. But I missed the college student baristas of my favorite hangout at home and choosing my selection from an artistically hand-written chalk board. 

We finally found my daughter a prom dress. It was no easy feat. (People really spend $200 on a prom dress that’s worn once?) We had to visit three or four stores, but we found a dress that makes her look like a womanly princess and didn’t break the bank. Of course, there's no way I'm letting her go to a dance looking like this. I hear rumor they actually let boys go to these things.

While cruising through the stores, we saw lovely shoes, clothing, earrings, necklaces and other things I had no idea I wanted until I saw them. I’d forgotten the allure of stuff. It’s much easier to feel content with what I own when I’m not being confronted with all the things I think I might wish I owned.

We decided to cut our trip short and head home tomorrow. Turns out Spring is still fighting for life and Winter is still winning. Since our drive home involves a couple mountain passes, we want to get ahead of the weather. I've enjoyed my time here. It was fun shopping with my daughter. But I'm ready to get home to our slower pace and forget about the material goods I might have wanted to buy. 

Next time I need a gift, I'll look forward to visiting Main Street. I know when I push open the shop door and a bell jangles my arrival, a familiar voice will call out to me, ask after my family and help me find the perfect little gift. It will take me twice as long to buy something-- I'll need to plan for visiting time. But I know I'll be in fine company.

15 comments:

  1. Big cities are always about rush. It never fails to amuse me bookstores outside my beloved country. People actually enter there, hahaha. Here, they are often as silent and empty as churches on a Mondday morning. The only times I see a bookstore crowded is at the beginning of school periods. Sad people doesn't like to read that much here.
    Shopping for girls must be always fun. :D

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    1. We went to a huge independent bookstore today-- it was the best bookstore I've ever been in and the staff was incredibly helpful. I was in page-bound heaven.

      I love shopping for my daughter-- she's so cute and girlie-girlie it's fun.

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  2. Your bit about the book store reminded me of the movie You've Got Mail and Shop Around the Corner vs Fox Books. There is something quite charming about the smaller book store and the personal service.

    It's probably a good thing you headed home early. Cheaper! When you have need of variety, there's always the internet...

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    1. I love that movie. Yes, it is a bit like that. I did succumb in a big bookstore today-- couldn't resist. It was three levels of book bliss.

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  3. I used to work in an independent bookstore back in the 90s. Even though we were indy, I was probably a lot like that harried woman you met, always sending customers to the service desk and feeling put upon. There's a great indy store here now that fits your description. It's tiny and cozy and connected to the local coffeeshop so the aroma of coffee drinks fills the air: heaven. I so appreciate your love of Main Street. I think more and more people are feeling the same need for small, simple, and home-grown.

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    1. Oh there just can't be anything better than books and a coffee shop together-- sheer genius. I worked retail too, Amy-- I know customers can be demanding too. It's good to be patient, bit store or little.

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    2. Oops that's "big store or little".

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  4. We're only 25 miles from the big city of Raleigh, so shopping is no problem. Our local places are few. When we still lived in Raleigh, we went to Borders book store almost every week; I miss them. There's a Barnes and Noble, though, and I was there yesterday. I didn't find the book I was seeking. I may have to order online --- that's pretty boring. I find that I shop less now that we live way out here. That's a good thing, I suppose. I'm far more satisfied with the simple things.

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    1. I shop a lot less at home. At this point in life there really isn't much new I need! I liked to roam Borders too!

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  5. I would never trade small town living for the big city. I'm originally from a small town in Virginia where everybody knows everybody. And if you don't know them personally, you know someone related to them. As a grown-up, I traded my hometown for one in Maryland that is about six times bigger but it's still has the small town feel with its farms and people say hello even though they don't know you.

    Loved your post. :)

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    1. I miss some of the cultural opportunities of the cities, but not the traffic or noise. I've been in "big" small towns. In some ways, they offer the best of both worlds!

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  6. Love the charm of this post. I have lived in both big and small towns, and I definitely find both appealing. But I think you summed it up perfectly when you said it's much easier to appreciate what you have when you aren't confronted with all the things you lack. So true.

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    1. Hi LisaAnn-- Even the vast amount of places to eat are too tempting for me. Glad to be back home, staring at my mountains, relishing the good memories of a lovely visit. :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. One of the reasons I love small towns. The temptation to keep up with the Jones' is missing. Oh, I love to hit the big city every couple of months, with a list of things that need to be purchased or repaired (we own Fossil watches, and the nearest outlet is 3 hrs away), and a splurge at some big restaurant, but I prefer the little place here, with 18k residents and the small stores.

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    1. I'm like you-- I like to go and do "real" shopping every now and again. I love our little shops but sometimes when you have a need for something specific, it's hard to find. Also, just by virtue of purchasing volume, it's hard to get what you need/want in an affordable range in our small shops. It is good to be back home, though.

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