The Little Store leaves a big impression

Published 9:13 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The prices were right. The distance was right. The owners were right.

I’m talking about a neighborhood grocery in one of my boyhood towns — Pensacola, Fla. When I say neighborhood grocery, that’s what I meant. The grocery was inside a wood-frame building, probably about 40 feet wide and 60 feet deep. Two blocks from my maternal grandparents’ house, it carried the basics.

My two sisters and I referred to it as “The Little Store.” It was owned and operated by a husband-wife team that were grandparents, which may explain why young children were received well and treated well by the owners.

By carrying the basics, I meant it had penny candy, candy of varying other costs, ice-cold soft drinks, cookies on the loose in big, round, plastic containers. The brand I remember the most was Jack’s cookies. I could buy a fistful of cookies and an ice-cold Mountain Dew (in a green bottle with the words “It’ll tickle your innards” on it) for a quarter.

Those were the days when I could find a Hostess banana flip each time my sisters and I trekked to The Little Store. Try finding a Hostess banana flip these days. I believe they are extinct. And if so, why didn’t the EPA put them on the endangered-species list before they went extinct. I am holding the federal government accountable for the loss of Hostess banana flips.

The Little Store was our supply depot for Pixie Sticks and those little, wax bottles filled with flavored syrups. The Little Store offered peanut-butter logs wrapped in striped cellophane, BB Bats, Necco wafers, Sweetarts, Fizzies and Atomic Fireballs. It wasn’t until I reached my 40s that I learned Necco wafers weren’t just a candy. That candy got its name from its maker — New England Confectionary Company.

Well, maybe Yankees are good for one or two things.

As I got older, I appreciated The Little Store for more than just sweets. I could get good, great-tasting bologna from The Little Store. One of the owners would slice the bologna as thick, or thin, as the buyer wanted. Each slice was covered with that red rind. Half the fun of making a fried bologna sandwich was peeling the rind off the slice of bologna.

The Little Store also carried a limited supply of produce. Apples were plentiful, but peaches were limited to July and August, when most of the peaches in other Southern states were being picked. The owners seemed to have a policy: buy about five peaches over a week or 10 days would result in a free peach on the next visit. I guess being grandparents, they knew that grandchildren have limited incomes.

There’s something about biting into a juicy peach and letting the juice run down your chin, then dripping onto your Keds sneakers. Same thing goes for biting into a vine-ripened tomato.

A trip to The Little Store would last 30 minutes: 28 minutes of looking over the merchandise and seeking the best combination possible. The last two minutes would be used to pay for my purchase and making sure I didn’t leave my sisters behind. If I did that, I knew what would happen to my behind.


Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He would do a flip if someone could locate a banana flip for him.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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