Friday, September 15, 2006

Small Town Closing Down

Today a local donut and coffee shop will put up a "closed" sign that won't turn to "open" tomorrow. The owners of that independent purveyor of jelly donuts and joe are looking at the end of a 30 year era, one characterized by friendships forged at the counter and a quality, no-nonsense menu. The good stuff.

We all know how franchises are sucking up the little guys into a vacuum powered by the cheap electricity of convenience. Here, it's Dunkin Donuts. In other realms, it's WalMart or Barnes and Noble or Home Depot. They uniformly lack history, a deficit from which it is hard to salvage good service or community ties.

The Boss and I put over 15,000 miles on my car in the short year she's been alive as we traversed this small corner of our state, taking in the realities of rural New England. There's a quiet beauty in farms, orchards, wineries and fruit stands. There's melancholy in abandoned mills. The hills roll with the lilt of a practiced storyteller.

Then there are the strip malls, the coffee chains and the sprawling stations of convenient fuel that dot the Interstate. If those places have tales, they don't have the patience to tell them. And, anyway, their customers don't have listening ears.

Nostalgia has an important place in my world view, which dictates that nothing ever changes, not in the grand scheme of things. We evolve, we grow, we ascend and we transcend. I know we can't go back. Yet there are certain truths that fall in and out of favor, but can never be lost. Here in New England, there are elements of the impersonal chain store phemonemon that appeal to our thrifty stoicism. There is a convenience to the drive-thru that speaks to our fast walking, fast talking ways. But when wintertime comes, there's a need for warm familiarity that can't be replaced by something new.

And it's getting chilly out, right about now.

10 comments:

Whirlwind said...

I remember going there when I was Einey's age, every weekend while my mom used the laundromat next door. They definately had the best donuts around! They will be missed.

Mary-LUE said...

What a great piece of writing! I feel the same way as you. When my high school (built in 1926) was torn down 20 years ago, I was so upset. I'm still upset by it. I'm sure the new building is modern with wonderful conveniences and earthquake strong. But I loved my old, small stairway, questionable air-conditioned, needing retro-fitting school.

Sarah said...

This piece really moved me today - I swear I shivered. I think it is for exactly these reasons that The Apple Harvest has remained a fixture in my appointment book all these years and miles from home....perhaps it explains your "obsession" with the Big E too!

toyfoto said...

This frightens me more than GGC's assessment of where technology is leading us. I am at peace with technology, but not with the advent of strip malls and cookie-cutter landscapes. I see it like this, when New England looks like "COULD BE ANYWHERE, USA" things are not good.

lynsalyns said...

I can see your town in my mind's eye when you write about it. I know of what you speak here, and I echo the sentiment.

Lovely, really.

And considering how mean the WalMart self-checkout was to me, I think I won't be shopping there unless I absolutely have to.

Mrs. Chicky said...

When I was a teenager I worked at a small coffee shop that had a prime location. It was taken over by a Dunkin Donuts a year after I started working there. I missed all the customers who would sit at the counter and tell me about their lives after the coffee giant decided that counter space was not needed. Yeah, your post touched a nerve.

T. said...

I live in a place that used to identify itself by it's very large green grainery. They were scattered amongst the prairies, along the train tracks, and they dotted our landscape with a bit of history.

Now there are only a handful that remain.

So sad. And every time I go to town and see a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts it makes me sad. I long for the days of the old diners and the corner store.

Great, great post!

Binkytown said...

I know what you mean. Where I grew up was farmland. Now it's condos and WalMarts. It is cold.

mothergoosemouse said...

This town too. Used to be ranching and farming out here - now there's a stoplight where I look to my right and see horses, look to my left and see Wal-Mart. Totally incongruous.

Jenifer said...

Ahhh... I get the feeling we live closer to one another that I thought.... I can remember going there with my grandfatehr when I was little and he has been gone 22 years now.....