Farewell to a unique ‘country store’

Published 7:15 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Family Dollar stores are about as “chain” and “cookie cutter” as you can get.

All of them look the same, inside and out, offer the same merchandise at the same prices. There are “big box stores,” but there also are the little box stores, and FD is one of them. (The good news is they provide decent stuff at prices working-class people can afford.)

At the FD on Lexington Road, next to Sav-A-Lot, many customers, including me, get the feel of an old-fashioned country general store.

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That because of the manager, Don.

Don has a last name, but you don’t call friends by their last names. You call them by their first names or nicknames that reflect the friendly relationship Don creates with his customers.

My spouse controls the pursestrings in our family — something to do with my total financial incompetence — and thus handles most of the major shopping. I handle small stuff — things not needed but craved, like soft drinks, snacks, candies and tacky-but-fun seasonal decorations. I admit, I am addicted to the little solar Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas elves and Easter bunnies.

I use my “FD shopping list” as an excuse to spend a few minutes every few days in a store where the folks who work truly make you, as the Shakers say, feel “kindly welcome.” I don’t need, sometimes don’t even want the items. I’m just into a speedy form of the old Southern tradition of loafing at the nearby general store.

Nobody is better at making his store’s loafers enjoy their experience than Don. He can talk about everything from politics to government to local events, state events, national events and, yes, the weather. He also checks on his customers’ well being, health, jobs and lives.

Unless the topic is too serious — he expresses sympathy over a loss of a loved one, for instance — he always injects humor in the conversation, at his customer’s expense, his expense, no expense.

My happy and enjoyable experience as one of Don’s loafers soon will end. Danville’s Family Dollar, along with several hundred others, will be closing in the next few weeks.

It’s a sad reminder that stores of all sizes are subject to whims of corporations.

Thanks for the memories, as well as friendliness and sunniness, Don. I will miss getting that little solar leprechaun next March, but I will miss you even more.

Herb Brock