There’s something terribly romantic about little mom-and-pop shops.
Don’t get me wrong: online shopping is great. It gives us access to all kinds of products, and is very convenient, but every once in awhile, I like to actually leave the house.
I wouldn’t knock the convenience of one-stop shopping, either. When you need to buy paper towel, toothpaste, a drill, a can of paint and a pair of socks, a department or big box store can really come to the rescue. Still there’s something appealing about going to the specialists, and I try to when I can.
Chain stores are not that new an addition to American life. We’ve had department stores since the 19th century, supermarkets developed in the early 20th. Still, there was a greater division of expertise and the chains were not the omnipresent giants they are now. One of the things I love about living in Chicago is the number of small family-owned specialty businesses. There are still green grocers, and bakeries, and tiny garages. So I try to patronize them when I can.
Last week, I had some romantic after-work shopping, on Grand Avenue in West Town. It started with wanting flowers to combat the drear of November and the terrible, terrible affliction that is Daylight Savings Time. Using my ultra retro Internet, I learned about Steve’s Flower Market. Their website claimed they were a “European style” flower market, and offered “wholesale prices.” I was skeptical. Flower markets in Europe are something else.
I was not disappointed. The little shop is charming, friendly, and full of glorious flowers for sale by the stem. Everyone working there was knowledgeable and helpful, and I picked up some greenery and a few blooms to brighten things up. They’ve held up remarkably.
I followed my trip to Steve’s with a stop at Bari Deli, an Italian deli that also has grocery items. I bought some olive oil, basil, fennel, and gnocchi. They had a lot of olive oil to choose from, and their small selection of produce looked fresh and lovely. Then I went next door to D’Amato’s Bakery, which is a true trip back in time, complete with wooden and glass cases filled with Italian cookies and loaves of bread. I picked up a focaccia, and headed home.
Absolutely, I could have obtained all of these items faster at Trader Joe’s. But I want these little places to stay around, so I’ll take 40 minutes instead of 15 to shop at a couple of places. I want to keep having the option.