Craker’s Main Street Market, 223 S. Main St., was a little grocery store right on the northeast corner of Third and Main streets. It was owned by Homer and Alpha Craker from the early 1940s to 1960, when Ron Johnston purchased it. It was then known as the Little Market. Eventually, Johnston demolished the original building to make way for Quick Pick (now Cigs & Suds). Prior to the Crakers, the store was owned by Fred Crutcher in 1909 and Daniel Brothers in 1919

Don’t ya miss neighborhood stores

From food and hardware to gossip, general stores had something for everyone in the family

Jeanne Newby

When we hear the words “general store” we sure don’t think of any of the modern day grocery stores. We picture an old wooden store with a front porch, usually containing a Coke machine and a rocking chair. Many times there would be a checker board on the porch in the summer time but inside close to the old pot belly stove in the winter time.

You have to wonder how the store keeper managed to get any work done as there were usually several men just hanging around telling stories, playing checkers, or just sitting off to the side listening to the stories. There was usually a place outside for a friendly game of pitching horse shoes, another summer time sport.

Many times the general store was also the post office for the area. The storekeep was kept up on families all over the United States as most folks were so eager to hear from family they would sit and read the letters out loud for all to hear. And they would open the box from Sears Roebuck & Co. to show off what they had purchased from the catalogue.

The general store was a place for the lady of the house to sell her extra eggs, herbs, vegetables, milk, fruit or butter. The men would bring in their animal hides that they caught in their traps. Most would stick around to hear the latest news. Most folks had their own supply of food from the garden, the farm animals or the orchards, but they needed to buy sugar, coffee, tea and tobacco, which were shipped here in 100-pound bags. Customers would buy a quarter’s worth at a time. A quarter’s worth doesn’t sound like much, but it usually amounted to about 3 pounds of sugar.

The general store was an exciting place to visit when the new bolts of fabric arrived. The women would ponder over the fabric and buy maybe once a year to make one dress for herself and each of her daughters. She also made the shirts for the men in her family, but simple fabric was used for shirts. The ladies would also browse the store and look at clocks, pans, dishes, and other household items that were shiny and new on the grocer’s shelves. The kids would get a new pair of shoes right before winter. Other than that, they went barefoot once spring turned to summer. The only reason they got a new pair was that their foot had grown and they didn’t have an older sibling to pass down a pair.

Just as a lady would ponder over new dishes and pans for her house, a man would wander in the back of the general store where the hardware was located. The men could find nails, hinges, screws and other necessary hardware plus supplies for the barn, like bridles, horseshoes. The men and women alike enjoyed the general store.

There was usually only one general store to each small town. That was the custom. As the years passed, small neighborhood grocery stores began to pop up every few blocks. Most of them were small stores located in the front room of the family home. What use to be the front room or the living room became the local grocery store. Many a neighbor would come pounding on the door of the store to wake the owners to buy a much-needed item in the middle of the night. The small local stores put an end to most of the lingering in the store to get caught up on the local news; there just wasn’t enough room for that in a small grocery store. But it didn’t stop the sharing of a bit of gossip with the store owner, which would be shared with the other customers throughout the day. So the store was still the action place of the neighborhood!

Those neighborhood stores were soon replaced with large supermarkets where folks could walk inside and gather their own purchases instead of having the storekeeper gather them. There were also more choices per item instead of just one brand. The larger grocery stores did not have the business of the entire town like the general dtore, as there were usually several large grocery stores in each town. Each of those big grocery stores competed with each other, which brought about the weekly ads to see who could lure the lady of the house into their store. The ladies caught on and would “cherry pick” by going to each store to buy the sale items and maybe a few of the regular groceries. Some customers were loyal to one store only and that is what the large grocery stores relied on.

So even though the days of the general store are long past, we still have a special place in our hearts for the nostalgia of seeing men playing checkers on the porch, drinking a cold bottle of pop and sharing stories of when they were young. It is a relaxing thought.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.

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