Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Death of Small Town America

Since I started this blog I've been thinking a lot about how my retro romance got started. I was reminded of an event that took place in my first year of college. At the time I thought I was just getting caught up in the excitement of the moment but I now know it was really one of the things that lead to my love of vintage clothes.

My grandma lives in a very tiny town that has about 1000 people in it. My high school had more people than her whole town! In this town was a Dry Good's store that we all called Gina's because the lady who ran it was named Gina. I think the store had a real name but to me it was just Gina's.

This store was a huge 3 room (I think) building with an apartment above it. Gina lived in the apartment. In the first room on the lower level was drug store items. The next room had shoes and clothes. And, the third room had a bakery. When my mom was little everyone did their shopping at Gina's.

My mom has prom dreses from Gina's. Her brothers got their basketball shoes there. All of the ladies in town got their sewing and quilting supplies there. People got EVERYTHING at Gina's except their groceries! As Gina got older and Wal Mart and Shopping Malls began to take over the country Gina's business started to decline.

I'm sure the bakery was first to go. Then eventually people didn't go to Gina's for their clothes anymore. Why would you do that when you have all the exciting possiblities of a mall? Soon people were going to Wal Mart for their drug store supplies. Why go to Gina's with Wal Mart's everyday low prices?

When I was little a trip to Grandma's house always included a trip to Gina's! Her store reminded me of the store on "Little House on the Prarie" except it was much bigger. It had the wood plank floors that creaked when you walked and high shelves up to the ceiling with a sliding ladder to get to the top. She had the oldest cash register I 've ever seen! It looked like this!

If I was really good and really quiet while the grown ups talked I might get a treat before we left! She had a kid's area with books, small toys and coloring supplies. While the grown ups talked (I think there was more talking than shopping going on at Gina's) I would quietly eye the coloring book or doll I hoped to get. I especially remember one very beautiful plastic charm bracelet!

I didn't realize it but by this time Gina's only business was close friends and loyal community members who might save their birthday card, socks, or sewing purchases for Gina just so that her business would stay open but not much else was being purchased there. When I was a kid I didn't even realize Gina used to have a bakery and I thought the only clothes she sold were men's work clothes and maybe some underwear. Little did I know!

By the time I was in college Gina was too old to be able to run her store anymore. One of the last times I was in her store she was so blind that she thought a dress hanging on a rack was my mother. Gina was a very close family friend and my aunt often helped her in her store. Because of this we had the opportunity to help her clean out her store and purchases some of the last items remaining in her store. We made many, many trips to the store before it was closed. Each time we returned with a new treasure.

This is when I found out about the bakery and all of the other rooms I had never seen! That store was like a time capsule that I never knew existed. It was almost as if time had stopped about 30 years early. One day the customers quit coming and the store came to a stand still! I found the most amazing shoes I had ever seen in my life! If I only had size 4 or 5 feet I would have been the owner of them all for about $2 a pair!

I also discovered beautiful dresses and sweaters hidden away in perfect condition with the tags still on. Unfortunately many of these clothing items were too small for me to wear. I did purchase some dresses that were too special to leave behind even if they didn't fit. Some of these will eventually be listed in my store.

This cardigan sweater is my prized possesion from Gina's! I probably got it for about $2 and it is so cool looking . This picture doesn't do it justice! Every single time I wear it I get TONS of compliments! I'm not 100% sure how old it is. I would guess maybe from the 1960's. Does anyone have any ideas? I looked up the tag at Vintage Fashion Guild Label Resource but it was not listed.

I wish I would have known then what I know now! I would have bought everything, even if the shoes didn't fit! I could have had mannequins and all kinds of cool stuff! It makes me sad when I think of what became of Gina's store. There is no way Wal Mart can ever compare! Vintage Merchant at Ruby Lane has some lovely vintage clothing including some beautiful cardigan sweaters similar to mine. Go check them out! Purchase one and you could also be receiving all of the compliments I get!


Sandra Eileen Artisan Jewelry said...

I think we all had a place/store/shop like that - or at least I hope we do, one that we can recall fondly.

Maggie said...

If you were fortunate enough to live in a small town or have a relative there, you would certainly have found places such as Gina's. I am sad that we have lost small town America but it is no longer possible to make a living in any of them unless you own a business or have a profession such as doctor, lawyer, etc. The cost of living in this country will not allow people to "just get by" anymore. I worry about the future of this country and I would give anything to get back a few of those years. Thanks!

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