Monday, May 8, 2017


I was deeply upset this afternoon, still am, for that matter.  To anyone else, it would not have seemed worth troubling over.  I went into IGA for some groceries.  I shop locally.  This small town NEEDS a good grocery store and the only way to keep one is to shop locally.

IGA recently changed hands.  It was started and owned until this year by local people.  When we came here the old folks had retired and two young men owned and managed the store.  Recently it was sold.  I understand that it belongs to the Sobey chain of grocery stores now.  The new manager and his wife moved into town.  They changed lots and lots of things in the store.  It takes a long time to shop there now, because practically everything is in a different location.  The young people who work there are exceedingly helpful and I appreciate them.

This afternoon as I came into the store, picked up a grocery cart to go shopping and was met by something new.  Large, tall, broad movable shelving units were being moved into place, about six of them, I think.  Absolutely packed with potted garden plants, tomato plants and hanging baskets.  Just exactly the sorts of things we have been growing from seed, watering, fertilizing, caring for since the end of February, to stock our small garden centre in the hopes of selling them and earning a little money.  We paid a lot for a shipment of trees and shrubs from Manitoba.  We planted and transplanted (dirty, tiring work) and watered.  Tried to keep the deer away from the tender edibles.

We don't sell groceries!  Why are they selling plants?

I was deeply upset.  It seems so unfair.  They did no work at all; just wheeled the units in as they received them, took off the plastic wrappings and were ready to go.  I was upset enough to talk with the manager.  I was polite and did not shriek or make threats, probably too polite.  He was polite and insisted that that was "the program."  He claimed they were ordered before he took over.  But, for all the years up to now, while it was locally owned, the owners did NOT stock garden plants, I'd like to think out of respect for another local business.

I told Justin that we did not sell groceries and that, in fact, I buy all my groceries at his store.  I don't think I made a dent.  I don't think he even feels a little bit sorry for what he's doing to us.  If there were another grocery store in town, I would switch and shop there.

We moved here in 1999 to open this business, having looked all around Alberta for the proper small town--one with a large enough population and no current garden centres.  When we moved here there were two good hardware stores, a True Value and a Home Hardware.   If one didn't have what you needed, you went to the other one.  Both locally owned.  The Home Hardware was a particularly good, service oriented business.  When you entered the store they greeted you by name and asked what they could help you with.  Some years ago Home Building Center bought out the Home Hardware and built a large new store out by the highway.   Pretty soon the True Value gave up and closed.  Now the seniors in town could not walk to the hardware store to buy a few nails or a bit of clothesline.  They had to get in the car and drive the mile out to the highway.   This doesn't seem like progress to me!

There were two small, spic and span, family operated motels here when we came.  A few years later Town Council okayed a development by the highway corner: a Get and Go convenience store with a gas station and a Super Eight Motel.  Then a year or two later a Best Western came to town.  What do you think happened to those two small family businesses?  They are desperately struggling.  Both have been for sale, but there are no buyers.  The Lamplighter is trying to survive by opening a liquor store in what used to be its garage.  Good luck!

Sears used to have a STORE here, with major appliances, a catalogue desk and service.  When we renovated our home I bought almost all our new appliances there, plus curtain rods, shades, etc.  After a few years the store passed to another owner and pretty soon became just a place where you could pick up a catalogue and pick up your order that you had phoned in.  This week even that is closing.  Why?  Because Sears doesn't print catalogues anymore.  You have to go online to order and they will send it by post.  Pity the poor seniors who can't figure out these online things.  Something lots of seniors have trouble with.

When we moved here there were three stores to shop at for clothing: a very nice ladies' clothing store, a Saan store for in-between priced things, but still good quality, (I have a T shirt that I bought in '97 that's still wearable) and a Fields Store where you went for socks and underwear, towels and some kitchenware.  All three stores are gone.  We now have a Bargain Shop with very shoddy clothes, cheap linens and canned goods.

After Home Hardware/Building Supplies were in their new location for about two years they opened a very nifty garden center.  They have a truck come in every week from B.C. with fresh hanging baskets, etc.  About two years after they opened our yearly sales were half what they used to be.  If IGA sells all those plants I saw there today, our sales will go down again by a large percentage.

You know what?  That wonderful life that used to be possible in small towns is being destroyed by big corporations.  And people fall for it!  Progress!  Yes, bring in more businesses!  All the Mom and Pop stores will close.  Then the big chains will decide it's not worthwhile  to keep stores open in little towns and EVERYBODY WILL HAVE TO DRIVE AN HOUR TO BUY A SPOOL OF THREAD OR A LOAF OF BREAD!

My lament is for the death of small businesses and the death of small towns and a way of life that was real and good and a place to raise children that didn't need to be watched every moment for fear of being kidnapped.  I'm just thankful to have lived in the good old days as a teenager myself.  My girlfriend and I were free to walk a mile to go skating in a city park in the winter evening, home by 9 p.m. and no worries.  I'm ever so thankful to have spent our children's growing-up years in a small town in Alberta where they were free to roam and explore with their friends, creating fun out of doors, growing up healthy and independent and creative.

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