When I was a kid, Mom would give me a few dollars and send me to the store for an item or two that she needed to make dinner. Cira’s was our neighborhood grocery, and it was just four blocks away. I could reach it on my bicycle in five minutes. Cira’s had just six aisles, so selection was limited. But I could count on finding common items like tomato soup and ground beef.
My least favorite thing to carry home from Cira’s on my bike was milk. That gallon threw off my weight balance! I had no basket, so I had to carry it in my hands, which got mighty cold mighty fast. In all the years I fetched milk for Mom I managed to drop only one gallon. It hit the pavement like a bomb, white milk spreading out across the gray pavement.
Cira’s closed 20 years ago, and the building is vacant. Across America, except in pedestrian-centric cities like New York, most corner groceries have gone the way of Cira’s.
Today I occasionally find a small grocery like this IGA Foodliner when I pass through small Indiana towns. This one is in Morgantown, directly south of Indianapolis. Or at least it was — when I check on it on Google Maps, it closed sometime after 2018.
After Cira’s closed, locals had to drive a few minutes to reach a grocery store, either local stalwart chain Martin’s, or one of the national retailers like Kroger or Walmart. The folks in Morgantown now need to drive 10 miles to Martinsville to do their grocery shopping. In Morgantown, moms can’t send their kids to the store for milk anymore!
Lots of little IGA stores still dot small towns of the Midwest and South. I don’t know anything about the economics of small-town groceries, but I wonder whether their days are numbered for the same reasons city neighborhood groceries have largely died out.