The other day, I drove home by way of Gravelly Lake Drive in Lakewood and passed by the tiny strip mall across from where the video shop was about a decade ago. Before the latter went out of business because everybody turned to new media. Now that people re-discover the treasures they have on video, I bet a lot want to go back to that old-time system. We just had our old video recorder repaired. There are people out there who know how to. Maybe repairing old things is better than discarding them entirely. You never know what you might miss out on. Maybe some old home videos. Old film is restorable. Not so sure about crashed hard drives.
Interestingly enough, in the little strip mall, an antique store has opened its doors. One of quite a few here in Lakewood. I haven’t been in there yet. But apparently, old things ARE treasured, after all. To a degree. Admittedly, I enjoy browsing through them and, only recently, found some items for another cover photo for my next book in one of them.
Ardesson’s, my shoe maker and go-to store when it comes to all kinds of repairs involving tough materials like leather or heavy fabrics, is kitty-corner from the antique store. They also sell shoes. I love that we still have such a traditional business in town. It even smells like those I remember from my childhood! I just wonder sometimes about us wearing sneakers that don’t need replacement of heels and soles. And about the pandemic which gave us fewer reasons to dress up into nice shoes because of fewer functions. Back in Germany, more and more shoemakers and cobblers closed their doors already more than a decade ago. They were replaced by chains who soled and heeled your shoes within half an hour. Combined with a key making service, for whatever reason. Some of them have failed, too. It’s a sad thing because with the loss of any shoemaker and cobbler we are losing a trade, a skill, and knowledge. And we are drifting even more towards dumping things because nobody knows how to keep them up anymore. Sustainability needs people with such skills. I’m all the gladder about this one in Lakewood.
Some trades lost it because of their working times. The baking trade has started relying on industrially made dough that gets baked in the chain stores affiliated to the manufacturer. None of their operators seems to have to get up much earlier than anybody else. A few artisans remain. These bakers get up in the middle of the night to tend to the dough that has been raising for hours, shape it, and bake it, so that we can buy as soon as we have started our day as well. Few trainees want to take up with such a tough schedule. Hess Bakery and Deli as well as the neighboring Café Lalague with its elegant pastries and cakes around the corner from afore-mentioned strip mall are two of such few artisan bakeries respectively pastry shops with original recipes from Germany. No chain stuff. Handmade. Bread and pastries that are unique in texture and flavor.
One old trade that is losing out more and more is the classical butcher. In Europe also, by the way. What once made me love going to the butcher – the checking out of different pieces, the careful cutting and trimming before my eyes, the pride the butcher had in presenting me with something special – all of this has pretty much gone. So has the chat about what you are going to do with it while your order is prepared. Often, your order is prepped for you in the back of the shop, and you just get handed your finished paper package. Maybe the closest you get to a European butcher experience over here is at a deli meat counter where they cut up a piece from the show case for you. But it’s not the same. It’s not the vibe, the typical smell of a butcher shop. Have supermarket packages displaced the classical trade?
Lots of businesses that were around in my childhood and youth have disappeared. And I never found similar over here either, not even back in the days when I came here as a tourist. Technology and convenience have removed the need for some. So has our readiness to dump things. Haberdasheries, rotary iron shops, seat weavers, carpenter’s workshops – things of the past?
The businesses that survive are the ones we sustain. And they may only keep up skills when we are willing to keep things alive and going, and to remember that our sources and resources are not infinite. Life changes. So do businesses. But in striding forward we should not forget about that on which we have started out and built on.