When Wal-Mart and Home Depot came to town there was a squeeze on Mom & Pop.
With them, the historically long tested path of raising your children with a higher standard of living than your own, by owning a store, got thrown on the ash heap of history.
With the advent of these global chains, Mom & Pop’s good location and hard work could only be used as a vehicle to consume their life’s savings, while slowly strangulating their business just like a boa constrictor slowly strangulates its prey.
The last hold-out of Mom & Pop against the big retail behemoths, at least in our neck of the woods, is the General Store.
Our General Store has no local competition as the nearest grocery store is 30 minutes away, and the next closest General Store is 15 minutes away.
For us, you either go to the General Store or, you look forward to a nice drive to get the kids some ice cream.
But the General Store is now getting slammed.
Our General Store, like most General Stores, is part of the community.
The General Store is owned by someone who lives in the community and who has had roots in the community that have grown over the span of generations.
The General Store is where people come to chat over a cup of coffee.
The General Store is where you see out of state license plates on the weekends and in the summer.
The General Store is where you can pump your gas first and then afterwards, go inside and pay.
Today, the last vestige of Mom & Pop, The General Store, is under assault by the FOMC’s printing press.
The increase in money supply is driving up food costs, and if the wholesale cost of food goes up and up, the General Store has to raise its retail prices.
But the General Store is part of the community – and the community needs to be fed.
The community has single mothers living on meager means – and their children need to be fed.
But the prices go up.
The General Store is not run by MBAs from Wharton Business School who are trying to maximize profits.
The General Store is run because it has always been run, and the folks who run it need to pay their bills, and eat, and send their kids to school.
So you see the quandary? The General Store is as much a service to the community as it is a business….but the General Store, which is the last stand hold-out of Mom & Pop is being squeezed.
Salami is now $10\pound and the store owner is doing her best to keep the prices down.
What happens to the community when\if the General Store cannot make it?
Our bucolic and remote lifestyle just gets a little tougher, which for my household, is O.K. as we like it deep in the woods that are deep in the mountains. But we have a couple of cars and can afford the gas to the next General Store, or even the extra gas to the Supermarket that is a half an hour away.
What about the older folks, who, though toughened by decades of Vermont winters, cannot afford the gas to the Supermarket?
I remember the last bout of food inflation in the US in the 1970′s.
I remember that cans of food would have a stack of price stickers layered on to them as the grocers would have to update their prices numerous time in less time than it took them to turn their inventory.
Folks used to peel back a price sticker or two in order to ‘roll back’ the prices (to borrow a phrase so gently rehypothicated by Wal-Mart) to something that they could make sense of.
Grocer’s would look the other way if this roll-back process was done by folks with grey hair.
But today, with bar-codes, this little price sticker roll-back trick is just a quaint story to tell the kiddies as now, the price of a can of tomato soup can now be updated remotely, and on the fly, by Wal-Mart’s massive computing grid.
So what is the General Store to do as food prices march upwards and upwards?
Do they absorb the additional cost and eat into there already slim profit margins?
Do they pass on the cost to their customers?
Do folks start coordinating car-pools to go buy groceries?
I am not sure how this will play out but it seems that another quintessentially American pleasure, may bite the dust – and the next generation of American’s will long for the good old days.