A look back at Mom and Pop StoresWORTHINGTON — There was an article published in the Daily Globe on Aug. 1, 2005. It was written by Kristen Holtz and titled “Goodbye to Mrs. B’s Grocery.” From the article, I quote, “For as long as most Rushmore residents can remember, the town always had a grocery store.”
By: Al Swanson, Daily Globe Historical Columnist, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — There was an article published in the Daily Globe on Aug. 1, 2005. It was written by Kristen Holtz and titled “Goodbye to Mrs. B’s Grocery.” From the article, I quote, “For as long as most Rushmore residents can remember, the town always had a grocery store.”
On Friday, July 29, Rushmore’s last grocery closed. Mrs. B’s Grocery, named for Brenda Grunewald, closed because it wasn’t getting the support it needed to be competitive. It wasn’t the community’s fault. So many residents of Rushmore work in Worthington or Luverne, and it was easier to buy their groceries there. It was said that the grocery store was an important part of business in small communities. They had “a lot of stuff’ that a shopper couldn’t find in the bigger stores.” The closing of Mrs. B’s hurt many elderly people who didn’t want to drive into Worthington or Luverne, especially in the winter.
What was true for Rushmore applied to many small communities in Nobles County and in the larger towns or cities. There always had been a small grocery somewhere in the neighborhood. It was usually operated by two people, frequently husband and wife. It seemed natural to refer to them as “Mom and Pop Stores.”
Where were they located in Worthington? How long did these small stores last? Who operated them? From many sources, there might have been 15, mostly in the older parts of Worthington. There was one store on Lake Avenue, close to the entrance of what is now Minnesota West. There were two stores on Lake Avenue near Chautauqua Park. The Dover Street area had one store, another on East Avenue, and another at Sixth Avenue and 12th Street. There were two stores at McMillan and White Lane. There were two stores near Humiston and Okabena. On Clary Street near Burlington was the store that (it was said) was one of the last, if not the last to close. Many of these locations are closed, were changed or remodeled. Some of my sources didn’t remember exactly, but the “old-timers” said there were 15 located on a newspaper map — but the map wasn’t available or they couldn’t remember that far back. But they existed, and they are a part of the local history of Worthington.
As small as some of these were, can you remember the quantities like 100-pound sugar sacks, 100 pounds of potatoes and a 100-pound sack of flour? Molasses came in a barrel. Apples came in wooden bushel baskets. People brought in their eggs and traded them for groceries. There was always a pickle barrel somewhere. People would bring their jars and fill them with pickles. Everyone had their own vinegar jugs and filled them from the vinegar barrel, usually stored in the basement. Peaches, pears, blue plums and Bing cherries came in wooden crates. They don’t do that anymore.
In these small stores, groceries were charged and paid weekly or in two weeks. The grocery bill was the first payment to come out of the paycheck. There were charges that were paid monthly, and there was the grocery bill that was paid when the crops came in. Most stores opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. On Saturday, or payday, the store stayed open until the bill was paid.
A national columnist referred to the Mom and Pop stores as “Mr. And Mrs. Small Business.” Besides the grocery store, they used to own the diner down the street, or the coffee shop around the corner. Maybe the bookstore, where one could browse as long as they wished. One by one, the places went out of existence, replaced by big stores with lower prices and larger selections.
The small grocery stores are especially a thing of the past. They were a part of local history and very evident in Nobles County, Minnesota.
Al Swanson is president emeritus of the Nobles County Historical Society.