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The Country Store in Walla Walla, Washington
I am a creature of habit.
The weather notwithstanding, I'm at one of my favorite coffee shop haunts in downtown Walla Walla working on this hub. It happens to be raining quite profusely at this time, and while I'm not seeing any cats and dogs falling from the sky, it still strikes me as odd, one week into June, that I'm also not seeing any cats and dogs walking around, either, thanks in large part to the topsy turvy weather.
Usually, late spring and early summer means hot, sunny days in southeastern Washington. Lately, however, our weather has been akin to the schizophrenic meteorological scene more familiar to Seattle, some 250 miles or so to the west and devoid of any mountainous protection from the occasional Pacific storm fronts.
So I'm glad that I mowed my lawn this morning. And I'm equally pleased that I went to The Country Store yesterday when the sun was lazing narcissistically in an empty azure sky and took some great internal and external shots of that local Mom and Pop shop.
Grateful to be a resident of the Walla Walla Valley, I have a self-imposed mission to contribute my share of good citizenship by spreading words of sincere appreciation for the wide spectrum of small businesses in the local area. The Country Store is one such enterprise.
The seemingly overnight success of Walla Walla wines and subsequent surge in small businesses have been responsible for bringing more traffic to our picturesque valley. Once known primarily as a wheat farmer's haven and a penitentiary town, Walla Walla might very well have remained just another mundane stereotype.
But thank goodness that isn't the case. In fact, the pride of southeast Washington has, thanks to the agrarian sprawl of vineyards and wineries, made quite a definitive statement. The proverbial mouse that roared, as it were, is making a name for itself...not just regionally, not just nationally, but on a grand global scale.
Which brings me to the point of this review. Like the initial wide swings of a pendulum, it's comforting to know that changes, even and perhaps especially good changes, can blend in nicely with and serve as complements to the longstanding, deep, and secure roots that color the character of the local area.
The Country Store in Walla Walla is vital to this community in that it is a perfect resting spot for the wonderful memories previously stored in great-grandmother's trunk in the attic, or in the old red barn that looks like it could fall apart come the next wind that sweeps down from the majestic Blue Mountains, or on the antiquarian bookshelves of ivy-walled college as well as personal libraries.
For a mere pittance, enterprising entrepreneurs can rent store space for their beautiful vintage wares, rich with area history. When their items sell, a percentage is given to the store, and the private parties pocket the difference. A great win-win scenario!
And the rest of us have at our leisure this wonderful museum of rural Americana that is simply jam-packed with sweet yesteryear nostalgia.
In fact, during my transition in late 2011 from an online vendor of fly tying hooks to a novice seller of vintage ephemera (prints, print ads, articles, magazines, and postcards), it was at The Country Store where I found my first substantial inventory of dirty old paper. Meandering into an upstairs booth, I discovered a couple of cardboard boxes filled with National Geographic magazines from the 1920s, 1940's, and 1950s. The original price of $65 had been crossed out, and in its stead was written 50% Off!
Probably due more to my impulsivity than any good business sense--although, like the fish tale that gets increasingly embellished with each telling, my entrepreneurial acumen keeps getting bigger and bigger--I rushed downstairs and pleadingly presented the merits of the purchase to my wife. I just knew that I could turn that $32.50 plus 8.7% sales tax several times over in a relatively short time!
My original intent was to sell each magazine for a small profit. But once I opened a few of these old issues and realized the wealth of informative, well-written articles; magnificent black and white as well as color photographs; and magnificent true-to-life nature prints that lay within the covers, I knew that it was my destiny to become--yes!--a magazine coroner.
Hawaiian Odysseus, M.D.D...Magazine Dissecting Doctor!
At least once a month, my wife and I return to where it all started. The Country Store is neatly organized into a couple dozen booths or so, and I just love to explore every nook and cranny. Every now and then, a booth owner leaves, and another takes his or her place. It's fun and interesting to check out both the familiar relics as well as more recent additions to the shelves. You can see from the photos on the right why these gorgeous vintage items are like nostalgic eye candy for one such as I.
Invariably, we never walk out of the store without having made a purchase. On different trips, we've purchased a book containing Vincent van Gogh prints; issues of Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, or Life ; tin canisters; a book containing prints of birds indigenous to North America; figurines; collector's plates; lamps; baskets; Coca-Cola memorabilia; and other knickknacks.
We're in the business of reselling most of these items online--on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, Yardsellr,, Etsy, etc.--or at one of our occasional yard sales, but it's equally rewarding to know that we're also engaging in commerce with our Walla Walla Valley neighbors. Ultimately, each and every one of us is eking out a simple, practical, and honest living, liberated from corporate bullying; bosses demanding more and paying less; and--hopefully--the wolf at the door aka the turbulent economy.
To that end, we look to the neighborhood icons that serve as the glue that strengthens and binds the hardbound spine of our community.
Thank God for The Country Store. Just as its very name suggests, there is inherent and priceless value in grass roots simplicity.