Friday, January 19, 2007

End of an era

Today we walked up the steps to our favorite hole-in-the-wall store: Turrentine's Salvage Grocery in Woodbine. A handwritten sign announces its closing at the end of the month.

We push the battered door open. My little one hurries to get a cart, as he's done for me since he was a toddler. The chatty red-headed cashier waves, her American flag earrings shaking from side to side.

"I can't believe how big the baby has gotten! I won't be able to see her grow like I've watched your son," she says. I've been coming here before he was even born.

Walking into Turrentine's is like taking a step back in time. The low checkout lanes are pure vintage.

Patchwork wood floors creak as my cart skirts the furniture section and stacks of upholstery foam, back to the case full of lunchmeats. Oh, my husband's favorite Field Ham sausage, we'll never afford you elsewhere!

A friendly stockboy asks if I need anything in particular as he unpacks the last Pepperidge Farm breads. All of it--very thin white loaves, bagels-with-everything, english muffins, whole grain cinnamon swirl--only fifty cents apiece. I take as much as my freezer can hold.

We stroll up and down the tiny aisles. You never knew what unusual foodstuffs the shelves would have from one week to the next. Today, not much remains.

Remember the time we bought cases of Rao's marinara for 99 cents a jar? All those giant bags of seed--we made gingerbread houses for the birds. This is where we stopped before every road trip or houseguest; we could afford to stock the larder with organic juices and Zapps potato chips.

The year the freezer case was full of pie crusts and $1/lb. butter, I baked Christmas chess pies for everyone we knew. No more boxes of sweet potatoes still dirty from a local farmer's field--or pears cheap enough for decoration. Turrentine's even sold sorghum when we needed to remember the taste of our grandparents' kitchen.

Sure, the deals weren't as good the last couple of years. I still kept driving across town. Where else could you shop without bar codes, halogen lights, or a customer loyalty card?

Turrentine's was my country store in the middle of the city. I thank our favorite bag boy for all the times he's helped me to the car--a service that wasn't part of a corporate marketing chain.

With the smile of one neighbor to another, he closes the trunk on the end of an era.


DonnaB said...

Oh how sad. I always hate when a favorite store full of memories closes. You wrote them a very nice tribute.

Laura Talbert said...

How sad, Meredith! There are no such stores here, but if there were, I would be as loyal as you, and would mourn their closing.

Anonymous said...

i mourn with you. We had a dry goods store, growing up, where the aged sister proprietresses tallied the total by pencil on the back of the paper bag they put your items in.

have you read Barbara Curtis link this week to Dean Abbott's essay on mega-supermarkets?

it just feels sad. so glad you had it as a memory for your kids.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Meredith, that is so heart breaking!! I wonder, sometimes, what the future holds for our children's children. Will everyone be forced, by lack of choice, to shop at the same exact store? Will they even be able to find the ingredients to cook from scratch? My mother wrapped meat for a small local grocery chain for almost 30 years. That chain has now bought out two other chains and has grown to be a multi-state HUGE chain. They were known, in their day, for the quality of their meats. Now there is very little in the way of fresh meats and the counters are filled with pre-prepared dinners ready to take home and pop into the microwave. sigh.

Anonymous said...

We are also sad that a favorite store is closing this month, the Elk Grove branch of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Great values on fresh, local, organic produce and bulk items. Not the cheapest overall because of being organic but good prices for many organics. But mostly we will miss the friendly service and neighborhood feel. We started shopping there when they opened (less than 2 years, it turned out to not be a successful expansion) so the staff saw our son go from baby to toddler and gave him much friendly attention. It's hard to say goodbye to a place "where everybody knows your name (or face)" like the Cheers song because it is such a rarity in today's world!

Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

I love shopping at mom and pop type shops. It's so sad that so few remain due to the larger chains. I'm sorry to hear that your favorite store is closing. :-(

Anonymous said...

Just browsing on the internet to see what topics came up under "Turrentine Salvage Co." :) It was so nice to happen upon such a nice comment about Our family's store. We were just as sad to see "the store" go. As this has been my home away from home since I was born. Thank you for being our customer. We truly appreciated all of our customers like yourself who put food on our tables for years. Joseph...that was the sacker's name. He is doing great. The "Red-Headed cashier"...Carol...she is doing great as well. Thanks again for such kind comments.

Anonymous said...

I share your sentiment regarding missing your little Turrentine Grocery Store! I am Rodney Bates' (owner of Turrentines) oldest daughter and boy do I miss walking into those old red doors, leaving the hussle and bussle of fast paced world behind for the time you are in the doors of our take you back in time grocery store. We miss all of our customers very much and were very blessed to have each one of them walk across our wooden floors,leaving footprints in our lives that we will never forget! Thank you for mentioning our home away from home, country store in the city.
God Bless you,
Rhonda Bates Stallings