This Friday, Mary Beth at Rev Gal Blog Pals focuses our attention on corner shops. Her questions got me thinking and remembering a corner I have come to love. Some of the Lutherans among us may even know it: Como and Carter in what my husband calls “downtown Saint Anthony Park”–a small town neighborhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
My first encounter with that corner is not even part of my conscious memory. I’ve learned that story through family legend. We lived north of Como and my grandmother lived south of that big street that divided our neighborhood. One day, when I was very young, I took it in my head to visit my grandmother. I toddled out the front door, down the street, making a turn on Gove Place. One short block later I found myself at the corner of Como and Carter–a busy intersection managed by a stop-light. What could I do? I was on the north side of that snarl of traffic and my grandmother was on the south side. I crossed. With the light I am sure. It was a short dash up Carter to my grandmother’s house. A short dash for me and an even shorter dash for my dad who caught up with me just as my grandmother was filling a plate with cookies.
Since that day, the intersection of Como and Carter, has been my gateway to the world beyond my doors. Harder’s grocery store was replaced long ago with Muffaletta-a good restaurant where, on a summer day, you can eat outside with your dog and where on a snowy winter day, you can stack your skis in a corner and sit down to a lunch of beer-cheese soup.
Guertin’s drug store is gone too. It’s been replaced by The Finnish Bistro–an improvement to the scene. For years, I’ve been pestering them for the recipe for their Kringler–an almond-topped and almond flavored bar with yummy frosting on top of a shortbread cookie. A slice of kringler and a cup of coffee is my breakfast when I come home to visit.
The anchor of that corner–what makes it thrive–is not a store or a restaurant but rather a library.
It was at that library I learned to read. It was there I learned to dance. There’s not a child of the park who’s not tied to that library in one way or another. I still go go there when I come home. I’m not home until I’ve smelled the books, and remembered the worlds opened to me there.
Stores have come and gone. Some stay around. The Bibelot–the gift store where I have bought three whatever clocks
is still there though not quite as trendy as it once was. Maybe that’s its staying power–trendy but not too trendy.
The quilt store has gone. That’s a shame. The little tavern is gone as well. But the store I miss most is the antique store at the bottom of the square. I so loved rumbling through its aisles, sorting through the pictures, wondering about all those exotic farm implements and those familiar kitchen tools. Except for Muffaletta, Milton Square has not proved to be a good place to set up shop. The locals have their explanations–some kind and some not so kind. Me–I think it’s winter that kills those shops at the bottom of the square. Too much ice. Not worth a fall. Even for a beer, a bolt of cloth or an antique.