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Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals: Corner Shops and Lansdale’s Real Main Street

I am playing the Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals on the theme of Corner Shops.  Where I grew up in Edmonton, there were many corner stores,  and I was intrigued by the array of goods, and the possibility that I could someday buy Key-Tab notebooks(we called them “scribblers” in Canada).  When Stratoz and I moved to Southeast PA in 1997, we were deciding where to live, and my sister said Lansdale had a real Main Street, and indeed it did, and that’s where we’ve been ever since.

Edmonton’s equivalent of a Main Street for me was Whyte Avenue, in Strathcona, which used to be an actual town, annexed into Edmonton.  I didn’t know that, just that there were shops in interesting buildings and I could easily walk from one to the next.  When I moved to Bethlehem, PA in 1985, while my mother was attending Moravian Seminary, I was amazed at how a real Main Street brought in busloads of tourists!

1.  If you suddenly received a ton of money and could open up some kind of store or service just for the pleasure of having it (assume it wouldn’t have to be too financially successful!), what would it be?

I have an online shop for my mosaics, Nutmeg Designs, and sometimes I wonder about having a physical store.  Setting up for craft shows is exhausting and the idea of having a permanent home for our art is appealing, especially if I had this ton of money to ease the start up costs, but I love having a studio in my home, where making art is intrinsic to my life.  There is something magical about making an entire environment for people to step into and become part of, and I can envision having a coffeeshop, where art is on the walls, and there is music and pastry.

Part of me is attracted to the idea that places we enjoy being, in which we have community, and use our senses to make connections with our world incarnate,  could actually be financially successful.  I heard the expression “showrooming” where people try something on, touch or otherwise experience an item, at a physical store and then go order it online for a lower price.  Anyone who owns a yarn store knows about this phenomenon, and while there are times when a lower cost is important, I also do not want to make this my default way of shopping.

2.  What service or store that no longer exists do you miss most?

Landale, PA Main Street by Don Groff.
Lansdale, PA Main Street by Don Groff.

I miss the Spice Smuggler in Lansdale.  The owner retired, and it’s now a cell phone store, the original awning still remains.  This shop had walls full of bulk spices in glass jars, tea, and gifts, and I always felt at ease asking those who worked there to measure out spices for me, because they loved and respected their customers.

2nd street Lansdale-- sign lingers
2nd street Lansdale– sign lingers. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz took this photo of a shop on Second Street in Lansdale, long since abandoned, and I know he’d love to walk to a stained glass store. Stained glass is a trial to photograph, and with art glass every sheet is different, even of the same kind, because art glass is handmade with swirls and ripples of color.  Buying stained glass online is usually for emergencies when we need a particular color, and it’s a solid color. We were sad when Inspirations Stained Glass closed in Lower Providence, but Rainbow Arts and Crafts in E. Norriton stepped up and started a stained glass section in their store, for which we are very grateful. [Sadly they too have closed, but Colors of Glass has taken their place as of Summer 2015.]

3.  What local business do you think you could make better if you were to take it over? And if you don’t mind sharing, what changes would you make?

I am going to reframe this in terms of what my favorite local businesses have in common.  They know my name, what I like, are interested in what I do, are a positive force, and are reinventing themselves in order to respond to their customers.  We are ecstatic that after seeing almost all our local bakeries close over the course of 10 years, but now we have Alice Bakery in North Wales and Ambler and Bakers on Broad in Souderton, we can always find deliciousness.

Napoleon from Alice Bakery, North Wales, PA
Napoleon from Alice Bakery, North Wales, PA. Photo by Margaret Almon, who generously shared this Napoleon with Wayne Stratz.

4.  What spot nearby seems to be impossible for businesses to survive in?

There is a small tavern on a side street that went out of business, and there have been several pizza parlors, an ice cream shop and a youth drop in center which have not survived.  The tavern drew people from the neighborhood, and it didn’t matter that it was on an isolated street.  I am hopeful for the newest business there, Smoke Rack BBQ, because they sell BBQ and people will come a distance for good BBQ. [Now replaced by a pizza parlor yet again in 2014].

5.  We’ve all seen stores that combined books and records, beer and laundry, or coffee and whatever. One of my favorite places to get coffee in Honolulu is a cafe and florist, and there is a car garage that’s also a diner in a town nearby. What would be a cool hybrid of two disparate ideas for somewhere you’d like to hang out?

Stratoz and I had a fine gourmet dinner at a French Restaurant in a bowling alley when we lived in Illinois.  A typewriter repair shop in on Broad Street in Lansdale also sold honey that the owner collected from hives in the back of the shop.  When we first started going out, Stratoz and I thought we’d like to run a Diner/Bookstore.  We are regulars at Lansdale’s West Main Diner.  If there was a bookstore next door, we’d be in heaven.  We are happy though that the Pedaller Bike Shop moved in next to the West Main Diner.

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