The demise of neighborhood grocery stores

Jack Miller - Contributing Columnist

As a former newsman on the radio, I felt a little twinge of regret that I was not in a position to cover the story on the Bings Stores closing. Luckily I have this column that the Sedalia Democrat is kind enough to print each week, so this is the story I would have written were I still a newsman, only with a nostalgic slant.

A couple of Saturdays ago I ran into a childhood friend of mine named Beryl McCoy while having breakfast at East Side Hardees. Beryl gave me a “Happy Birthday” wish noting I was only a few months older than him. As we talked the subject of Bings closing came up, and we were both reminded that we had actually watched the store at Broadway and Emmit being built when we were 13 or 14 years old. I hope we weren’t in the way back then, but knowing how inquisitive we were as kids I’ll bet we were. Since groceries usually appeared on the table with very little effort on our part I won’t say we were thinking of doing a lot of shopping there. The truth is my mother and many others in those days shopped at the mom and pop stores like Reed’s Grocery on 4th and Emmit, or one of the other many small stores that could be found every three or four blocks. There were in fact at least six mom and pop stores in easy walking distance of our house on 5th and Emmit. The reason a lot of families hated to see those stores disappear was because they would allow us to charge the groceries, and like a lot of families in our neighborhood we always had a bill at Reeds. I remember the huge metal folding file holder where Mr. Reed kept the outstanding bills. When he unfolded it you could see the yellow copies of the bills he kept as his records until they were paid, then he would send them home with the customer. We always had bills in the file.

As I said Beryl, along with his brothers, and I watched Bings being built, and I’m sure we marveled at its size once we were allowed inside. I am also sure however that the thrill of shopping in that larger store was greater for those who were older, and could take advantage of the expanded choices it offered. That point was made clear to me when I told my wife, Marlene I was writing a story about Bings, and she told me how thrilled she was when she came to Sedalia in 1956, and her aunt Nina Hudfdleston took her there shopping for the first time. She told me the store in Willow Springs where she lived before moving to Sedalia was not much bigger than our kitchen is today. Knowing how much she has always loved to shop it must have been like a trip to Disneyland for her.

As for me the nostalgia nut that I am longs for the simplicity of Reeds Grocery, and all those other little places where like Sam’s Bar in Boston, “Everybody Knows Your Name”.

It took several years after Bings arrived before those little stores disappeared completely, and I believe Reeds may have hung on longer that most, but Mr. Reed knew the handwriting was on the wall right from the start. I wonder if the owner of Bings felt that way when K-Mart and Walmart came to town?

Jack Miller

Contributing Columnist

Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column will run in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.

Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column will run in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.

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