The Retail Experience is Vanishing…..

Need a coffin? No problem, all you need is a laptop and credit card. Want to avoid the haggling when buying a car, keep the laptop handy and check your credit limit. Food? Ditto. With rare exception the acquisition of just about anything imaginable can be accomplished within a day or so, delivered to your doorstep by an automated process that is as impersonal as it is efficient. Forgive the nostalgia, but I miss shopping.

I walked into an Ace hardware in Navarre Beach, Fl., a week or so ago and was transported back in time to McIntyre’s farm store in Marion SC, where we shopped for garden seed and a few baby chicks to insure a Sunday post church dinner within a few short weeks. I can still smell the poultry, leather mule tack, hickory shovel handles and petroleum products like grease and oil. The smell was accompanied by the sound of a huge, belt driven fan that tempered the humid Carolina air by keeping it moving. The Florida store smelled similar, the merchandise was where you expected it to be, and bins constituted the inventory system. The employees were tenured and knew instantly if they had what you needed and where it was. Hardware stores are disappearing faster than folks at a Biden rally and will soon be gone. Unlike Biden, they will be remembered fondly. Find one and buy something……….it is an experience that will be a distant memory soon enough.

A hardware store, back in the day.

Guns and ammo. I can remember popping into a country store in Texas County, Missouri for shotgun shells some 50 years ago. Those days your selection came in green boxes (Remington) or yellow and red boxes for Winchester. You would find 4, 6 or 7 1/2 shot in low or high brass with a cardboard hull and wad. Rifled slugs were sold individually out of a box of 25. Gun stores back then carried a few foreign made firearms but the majority were either Remingtons or Winchesters. Rifle ammo was available in 30-30, 30.06 or .22. There were as many half-pints of chill remover (whiskey) for night hunters sold as boxes of ammo. Condoms, for the big boy night hunters, were stocked behind the gun counters, presumably to keep your mother from ciphering things she should not be interested in, should she be shopping nearby. Most importantly, gun stores saw more stories told than any institution in America outside a barber shop or creek tavern. Who you gonna’ talk to now, the UPS guy running a five second 40 and tossing your new hairdryer in the rose bushes? He doesn’t have the time…..believe me.

Gun stores that sold guns, dispensed advice and smelled of cigars. The golden age of firearms.

I never thought I would miss shopping. I tend to be focused, with the ability to walk into a retail establishment and walk directly to what I am interested in, making the purchase and walking out. That is a good practice today, because you aren’t likely to be helped by a clerk until you run the guy down from appliances to help you with your purchase in shoes. Think I am overstating the issue? I googled Amazon and found caskets, embalming fluid and a “how to book”. There are hundreds of kinds of condoms and live chickens available. Automobiles are next up with at least two brands now on sale by Amazon. Conversely, you can walk into a box store and buy a spinning rod from a guy who doesn’t know a broom handle from a pool cue. Jeans are no longer made in America and your expensive tennis shoes hail from a factory near the lab in Wuhan. You don’t need it if Amazon doesn’t ship it and a return involves driving by a retail store, tossing the item in the door and leaving with a credit on your card. They’ll even throw in a coupon for merchandise from the location accepting returns.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll head over to Ace Hardware and cruise the aisles. They look like a store, smell like a store, with the guy wearing the red apron an expert on, well, all kinds of things. God bless the local retail experience. Now that I think about it, I began grade school wearing mail order clothes from Sears and I’ll be put away in jeans and a shirt from Bangladesh, China or Pakistan. Shopping locally used to be the backbone of our economy which has now become a so called global economy. It may be too late, as kids today think everything in existence comes on a brown truck courtesy of a track star with a good arm.

Sad, really.

Have a good weekend!


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