By Steven Froias
(NOTE: I originally wrote a version of this for Newbedfordcoworking.com last year. It has been updated to reflect #NBW3 – The Ward 3 project.)
Back in the day, New Bedford – like many other cities – enjoyed plenty of corner stores, pharmacies and small grocery markets in its neighborhoods. Places where you could actually buy real food that wasn’t marinated in high fructose corn syrup.
Sadly, too many of them are gone – and in the case of pharmacies, vanished for good.
Globalism in the streets
That’s largely due to economics. The demise of so many corner stores, small markets and drug stores that served as community hubs isn’t unique to New Bedford. The rise of first the supermarket and then the global supply chain which feeds Wal Mart killed most of them off everywhere. And Rite-Aid, Walgreens et al basically obliterated the local pharmacy business.
Some of the corner stores were replaced by larger, car-friendly 7-Elevens and Petro Marts. Cumberland Farms is probably the best of this type of variety store. But even some of these – unlike the stores below – take an occasional snow day.
Nothing beats the charm and necessity of the true corner variety store – usually owned by someone who lived on the same block as you or at the very least the next block over. A few of today’s corner stores in #NBW3 are carrying on this tradition – in spite of 21st century challenges.
The owners and crew in these places are more often than not hard-working families raising a generation of children who are working just as hard to achieve impressive goals of their own. Here’s a few who are doing just that in New Bedford’s Ward 3.
Cedars Convenience – at the edge of #NBW3
The corner store pictured in the photo at left is at Austin and Cedar Streets and no doubt had many names over the years. Now, it’s called Cedars Convenience. Beyond bread and milk, it’s also a UPS drop point, so you’re packages don’t have to sit on your porch all day if the brown truck pulls up when you’re at work.
It’s been a neighborhood asset for decades. I remember it as Violet’s. However, an old gentleman named George – Violet’s husband – was most often behind the counter and rang up all the purchases. So, the store’s common name in the neighborhood was ‘Georgies’.
George thought every kid who came into the store was stealing from him. And, being punks, we all most often were – when we had the opportunity to do so. Just little things like actual penny candy. Sometimes he would make you turn out your pockets before you left.
Today, the store boasts a hard-working crew who, unfortunately, have to deal with much more than spikey kids. Armed robberies at the vulnerable corner stores are all too frequent in an urban setting like New Bedford. That’s awful – because good people work here. Like Sal, originally from Bangladesh, who is just about to get his Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from UMass Dartmouth. And has worked for it by putting in 12 hours days for what seems like an eternity at Cedars Convenience.
Lucky 7 Branding
About two blocks from where Georgies used to be, a nice family from India runs a Lucky 7 – which is becoming a chain store of its own. They own and/or operate a few other corner stores around the city, and also Mark’s Beverage package store on County Street. Mom (pictured) is mostly at the Durfee Street and Mt. Pleasant Street Lucky 7 location. Dad is at Mark’s Beverage. Their son works at two of their stores from the early hours until the evening. And their daughter – while carrying a full course load toward a degree in marketing – puts in her time, too.
In a nice bit of synergy, the Lucky 7 at Durfee and Mt. Pleasant Streets is joined on the corner by the New Bedford Fire Department’s Station 7 and Station 7 Motors.
They are branding themselves for a global audience. Take that, 7-Eleven.
Quick Pic Mini Mart
Atop the Sawyer Street hill at Mt. Pleasant Street, you’ll find Quick Pic Mini Mart. There’s another one down on Cottage Street in Ward 4 – but that’s just plain Quick Pic. I guess because you can get gas at the one at Sawyer and Mt. Pleasant, they decided to go all out and deem it a “mini mart.”
Bethany Santos-Faetuex says she and her kids have a weakness for Quick Pic’s ice drinks and go out of their way to snag ‘em. “Cherry for Bailey, Blue Raspberry for Jamison and Green Apple for me!” she says.
Quick Pic also adds a little something extra to the corner store by bringing in cacoila sandwiches and malasadas from Holiday Bakery. And, you can get print copies made here – which is a novelty as well as a benefit anywhere in New Bedford.
- #NBW3: The Ward 3 Project is a grassroots initiative designed to ignite meaningful civic engagement, encourage good neighborhood practices and create a sense of place and identity in New Bedford’s Ward 3. It is being launched by Beth Santos-Fauteux and Steven Froias and you can read more about it here and get involved, too!