Remembering the Strip Mall, Now Fenced For Destruction

There used to be a children’s consignment store there, all wooden animals and spinning tops made of tin and racks of clothes at the back and I would go in with you, when there was only one of you, and finger through the clothes and be glad I had friends who gave me their boxes of hand-me-downs because $8.99 is too much for second hand, 12 month old sized pants, even if they are Baby Gap. The used toys were overpriced, too, and mostly it was a good place to shop twice a year when they were clearing out a season and everything was half price.

Next door was the yarn store, open from 10 – 5, where the little older lady sat and knitted with her dog at her feet and every time the door opened and let customers in she was surprised and genuinely happy to see them. Your grandmother bought wool there and yarn, too, for hats and scarves and various other projects. It was a warm store, with huge windows and a comprehensive selection of knitting materials.

There was a hair salon, an old hair salon with yellowed posters in the windows of smiling women with their hair set in curls. I peered in a few times but never entered because there were always fifteen women getting their hair set in curls.

And the doctor’s office, its own story, is long gone, as the doctor is long gone, retired that is, not dead I don’t think, though I suspect for him they would be the same thing.

The place where we sometimes shopped for Dutch goods like stroopwaffel and those little cheese cookies and cinnamon twists and I would have bought black licorice in bulk, if I liked black licorice, but I don’t. It has moved to another part of town and I am sure all its loyal clientele followed it because stroopwaffel is worth finding.

A doorway next to the doctor’s led to a restaurant or greasy spoon, I think, though I never saw it open for customers. I only ever saw people go in with waxed cardboard boxes full of cabbages or potatoes. And I did smell the smell of a greasy spoon cafe, that is, the back door odour of same, which doesn’t make a person want to eat there, necessarily.

There was a pharmacy, too, where I went once to see if they sold those little suction bulbs that one can use, ostensibly, to suck snot out of the noses of babies, but which has never worked for me or for you guys. They didn’t have one, but they did have a big bin of discounted Tylenol and a variety of douches. Real douches, not the people I call douches.

Once, a long time ago, there was even a tiny dollar store wedged in between the cafe and the vacuum/sewing machine shop at the corner. The dollar store was so tiny I couldn’t get the stroller inside and hold the door open at the same time. I remember using every appendage available to me to get us in that store while the shop keeper watched us from his desk at the back of the store. I might have bought something that day but then, guess what, I didn’t. It took me just as long to get out as in, the guy watching all the time.

Before or after it was a dollar store, that dollar store was a costume and party supply store. Helium balloons shaped like monkeys used to float from the windows.

The vacuum store had a big sign out front declaring “Dyson Vacuums On Sale” which meant, actually, “for” sale not “on” sale, which is just as well because we bought ours at Canadian Tire, I think.

Speaking of Canadian Tire, when we first moved to our house, the anchor tenant at that strip mall was the world’s oldest Canadian Tire store. It smelled of rubber and oil and the isles were no bigger than my thumb and I found a wonderful shower head there, shortly before they closed for good. Now it is a motorcycle parts shop and the best part of this, for you, is that there is a Michelin man, a “tire” man who sits at the front door to the store and whenever we go by, you yell “TIRE MAN!” or “NO TIRE MAN!” as events warrant.

Soon the entire block will be destroyed to make way for a multi-level multi-function higher class strip mall with apartments on top – I think – and I am in no way mourning the loss of this very strange block of retail establishments but as I drove by today and saw the fence surrounding it I realized that if I never wrote it down, you would never know what was there before. And so much of your wee-hood to date has consisted of walks around our neighbourhood, being slightly bored and seeing the various sights and I’d hate for you to think in a few years that those apartments above those stores have always been there, because they haven’t.

Once, there was something else.

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