Survival for Mom and Pop stores can be a challenging one. They are out-priced, out-packaged and dominated by large national chains. What is a mom and pop store?
According to Free Dictionary, a mom-and-pop store is that which is “of or being a small business that is typically owned and run by members of a family; resembling or evocative of the small-scale, homelike, or informal atmosphere of such a business.” It is so much more than that!
History of a Mom-and-Pop Store
Mom-and-Pop stores have a rich history. In the early 1900s, practically every small town was dotted with grocery stores, clothing stores and hardware stores that met the needs of the community. It was not unusual to find all of these things in one location. As a kid growing up in the south, my family and I had to “walk” two miles to get to the closest store. I loved that little place. There was only thing wrong with it–I never seemed to have enough money to get one of those large “penny cookies.” My mouth “watered” for one every time I went in, but all I had was enough money to get the few items my mom sent for. I remember thinking, “If I owned this store, I could eat all of the cookies I wanted, and no one could stop me.”
There were corner drugstores which often became the center for social networking. Most were owned by the same family for many generations. Everybody knew everybody, so the pharmacist felt a kinship, as well as a responsibility to make sure the right drug was prescribed. Many drug stores had ice cream and soda fountains. High school classmates would meet and get to know each better over a milk shake or a soda generated by a large fountain. These were the “good ol’ days!
Mom and pop stores showed a welcoming spirit to the people in the community. They had something that the big box stores cannot replicate, no matter how hard they tried. Shoppers are more inclined to start and hold a conversation in mom and pop stores than in supermarkets or chain stores.
You get the feeling that everybody is in a hurry in national chains–they are there to get you to buy something and move on to the next guy. There simply is no place for building relationships. My dad had a relationship with the grocer in my small town. He could go there and get a sack of flour or meal on credit if need be. He simply gave “his word” to pay when money came in on Saturday from the pulpwood he had sold the day before. The grocer said, “Alright,” because he knew his brothers, sisters and his father had known my dad’s father. These relationships had grown over many years and continued to grow. Today, credit is so impersonal. It is relegated to cards, numbers and voices on an approval machine or electronic devices that threaten you with fees.
Mom an Pop Stores: Today
Let us not lament and cry “crocodile tears,” mom and pop stores have not disappeared. They are live and growing! They have re-invented themselves in many ways: the neat coffee shop on your way home; the little clothing boutique that assures you that you will not “see yourself at the party” with the dress you bought a week ago; or the muffin shop where the owner uses his mom’s recipes.
Consumers should not feel that just because a store is not a big box, prices will not be competitive. That is not always the case! That is a myth! Get over it! Compare apples with apples and you may be surprised. So, skip the ride to the “giants’–you just might experience a super “mom-and-pop-day!”