Memories of Ma and Pa food markets gone by
As I talked with Iona and Steve Giacoletto about their leaving a life long grocery store operation during the research for the article that is in today's Sun Advocate, it took me back to my roots in Murray.
I listened intently while the pair described their struggles, their sacrifices and how they felt about a business that had given them a good life, but a hard earned one and I had to think about people I have known in the past that ran small ma and pa grocery operations.
Because of my various occupations I have known quite a few. But what it really brings me back to is my childhood, when in my life there was only one grocery store; Sharps Grocery on the corner of 6400 South and State Street in Murray.
It was where my parents shopped literally until the store closed.
My earliest memories of that store was when it was directly on that corner and was in a small old building about the size of what R & A Grocery in Helper is today.
My mom used to take me in there and we would buy all the stuff we couldn't raise on the farm. I remember the two brothers who ran the store and the family members who worked in various capacities there. The store has small aisles (even to a boy of five) and they always had a Twirl Town toy rack by the front counter which I usually persuaded my mother had some 39 cent toy on it that I couldn't live without.
When I was probably about eight the brothers built a new store that was close to the size of what Workmens is today. I remember the old building being torn down, leaving the service station that was next to it standing all alone (that service station has some old stories in my head as well).
This store was modern (for the time) and expanded the amount of things the Sharps could carry.
It was after that I remember my parents picking every Friday night to go grocery shopping. My dad would come home from milking the cows on our dairy farm about 7 p.m. and my mother would have dinner ready. We would eat and then head right out to Sharps.
I would walk through the doors of the store and there before me was a world of good smells, great candy and lots more toys than they had before. The new store you see had two Twirl Town Toy racks.
They also had something else: comic books, which was something I was just falling in love with.
My parents would shop while I looked at the comics and twirled the toy rack.
That Friday night tradition continued for many years, long past me going with my parents. By the time they stopped doing that I was through with high school.
What I remember the best was the people that owned and ran it. They were kind and friendly business people. They wanted their customers to be satisfied and would go to great lengths to do so. They always knew our names and asked about my older sisters.
So despite almost always getting something I wanted when we went to the store, it was that feeling of family, of them caring about their consumer community and what went on with all of us that I remember the best.
Young minds are impressionable and it was probably not as rosy a place as I remember it, but not one bad memory came out of those shopping trips.
Years later I would work for Coca Cola in Salt Lake and deliver to many stores much like the one I knew as a child. I saw the same things there. Dedicated family businesses running stores that had their own unique personalities. I enjoyed those years working with stores in neighborhoods in such places as Capitol Hill, Rose Park and Granite Park.
While the chains and big box stores can provide a lot of things to the consumer, they will never be able to replicate the feeling of those little stores run by people who make their living directly off what one spends in that particular store, that particular day.
Guido Rachiele, who owned Checkerboard Grocery once told me that there were 16 grocery stores like these little operations in Price. Now there are none.
But they are still out there. We have three right in our midst in Carbon County. Spend some time in them if you can.