Wait a second while I put on my grumpy old hat and complain. We have lost so much with the advent of big box stores. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy there too. Mainly because I have a well-known hardware store in my backyard and with five kids, a warehouse grocery store is a big part of our lives. Where do I buy a box of 15 dozen eggs (every few weeks)?
As spring has started to “spring” for the past few weeks, my wife and I have been planning and working to get our garden ready for planting. Part of our plans was the installation of a new fence. For the past few years we’ve used these electric rope fences, and while they kind of got the job done, I think the deer have gotten wise to us. At the end of last season, they easily beat the system. So, we’re going to try and learn how to build a real fence, what materials are best, and how to do it all on the budget of an independent sales rep and an outside writer.
Enter the food store. I’m guilty of not really thinking about certain places sometimes. While discussing our plans, my wife suggested before buying anything from a box store that we go to the local grocery store and see if they can help us. So by doing a few errands one day, we did just that. We walked in and I was overwhelmed with memories. I vividly remember stopping with my grandfather at small grocery stores in the area when he was still working. You see, he bought milk for Sealtest Dairies, and he regularly visited sales barns, feed stores, restaurants, etc. with its farmers. I have been to many.
When you walk into the small grocery store in downtown Greensboro, don’t be shocked by what you see or don’t see. Notice the things that exactly pinpoint its place in the local culture. The chairs sitting in the middle of the room, the tractor sales books, the seed books, the seed packets and the livestock feed. This is not where the casual gardener comes for zinnias. That’s where the guy with 100 head of Herefords and acres of corn comes to buy stuff. Need antiviral drugs for a herd of cattle? They have it. Need a heart trap to get the coons out of your chicken coop? They have that. Cattle gate? Yeah, there it is. You know what they didn’t have? Clueless associates trying to sell me an extended warranty on a $5 screwdriver.
I asked one of the guys there what he recommended for building a fence over a small garden. We did the math on our perimeter, determined how much wire we needed, discussed height, gate options, and even adding an electric fence at the very top. Talking to him I was introduced to a new lawn mower store that can fix my zero turn without me having to wait six weeks and another hardware store that actually sells HARDWARE not yard art and grills! Surprising!!! I need big, strong fence posts, not a new grill!
These types of places are known for their varied services. Forty years ago there was a little store in White Plains, Georgia called Veazy’s. The old man running it had real scales. I mean like you see it in the movies. They weighed the grain and fed on it from the time Noah brought the animals out of the Ark until it closed, I think. My paternal grandfather, Claude Pressley, stopped there every time he killed a turkey and Mr. Veazy weighed it for him. Then he would buy a snack and a drink and return to our house where he would show them off. You can’t do that in QT.
Now, the point of this isn’t necessarily to denounce the fall of western civilization or bash box stores. This means that we are losing valuable knowledge and skills at an alarming rate. These guys just knew how to do things that I didn’t. They were also willing to help, willing to share, and patient enough to make me feel like a real customer and part of the community.
We need more of that. We again need general stores where you can find help when your car breaks down on a Saturday. We need hardware stores that have and know how to use real tools! Not just how to hook up a charger. I’m sorry, but a Stihl chainsaw is always cooler and tougher than a battery-powered toy when you have an 80-foot pine tree in your yard. We need a fishing tackle store where you can get the latest information on lake levels, water temperature and what the fish have been biting. And all of these places need people who will hang out and talk to newcomers and welcome them into the community. It doesn’t matter if it’s just for the weekend or for the next 20 years.
How do we accomplish this? I have no idea. All I know how to do is try to find these places and frequent them. Buy your seeds from them. If you need dog food, check it out first. Next time go ahead and buy that new set of keys. Check out the baitcaster prices there before hitting the buy now button on Amazon. The prices might surprise you!
—Outdoor columnist James Pressley can be reached at [email protected]