Welcome to the #NookNeighborhoods series, where every Wednesday you’ll find cool history and culture to make sure you don’t overlook an area that could have the best nook for you. This week we’re doing a deep dive into an aspect of our Nook Neighborhoods being celebrated Nationwide on March 29, National Mom and Pop Business Day.
We always hear the phrase “Mom and Pop” store as a positive feature in a neighborhood, something to strive for, something unique to any of the new developments and a priority for the historical societies in our nooks. It's assumed that if there is a family owned business around, it's a good place, a wholesome place. If your Nook is good enough to allow a Mom and Pop Store to stay in business, then it's a place that you want to live.
But what exactly is the appeal of a good old “Mom and Pop Store?” Is it the assumed personal touch? Do we see our own entrepreneurial dreams in their storefront? For those invested in our neighborhood nooks, we might feel a sense of nostalgic American pride that if a Mom and Pop can stay in business there, it's representative of how our community works together and looks after one another. Many smaller businesses also bring a distinctive sense of style that sets one nook apart from their neighboring locales, as in the case of Dana Point. In these cases, the storefront is more of a branding necessity to the business than lucrative; the physical location is less about profits on the showroom floor and more about building awareness with its targeted audience.
From the 1980s to today, many Mom and Pops shut down when an influx of chain stores moved into their cities. As Amazon and other online retailers grew in recent years, the bottom line for booksellers was felt immediately, with small bookstores shuttering and others moving towards more niche, hybrid or online models themselves.
What we called Mom and Pop stores then are entrepreneurs today, often built more out of professional than domestic partnerships. But do those carry the same nostalgia and goodwill? Certainly, much of the true value of a Mom and Pop lies in the conversation across the counter and the ongoing relationships. When I lived in Atwater Village in the early 2010s, I had conversations all the way up and down Glendale Boulevard: with baristas, the health food store owner who'd opened after a successful Kickstarter, the local lunch deli, the owner of the pet store boutique, and the indie bookseller. Good friends of mine owned an indoor playground and the manager for Out of the Closet always had a fun story to tell. They watched my son grow from a stomach bump to a one-year-old walking his dog, and Heartbeat House always allowed him to stand by their glass door and dance, whether the class was zumba or flamenco or hip hop.
Leaving that NELA Nook took a part of my heart with it, even as the boulevard is rapidly changing. You can still continue chats from one week to the next with vendors at the Farmer's Market, or check for the local Twitter talk to learn what is Big Mista’s BBQ special and hear if the Knife Sharpener Guy is there today.
I suppose that is what attracts folks to a Mom and Pop Business: the feeling that others look after you, look for you, and you all have an investment in the neighborhood’s well being. As many signs in these small businesses say, you're not adding to a CEO's yacht fund, you're helping someone put food on their family's table. And often, the service and friendship you get in return cannot be matched.
If you have a favorite Mom and Pop business, Search With Style to see what homes are available nearby!