Not much happens here in little old Entwistle. The biggest shock of my life was when I came back from Japan and saw that nothing had changed. Great examples of this are the grocery stores. Bigger than a convenience store, but not big enough to compete with anything in the cities, they’ve existed to provide the necessities. They haven’t changed much and they’ve been in Entwistle and Evansburg since I first came to this town. Hell, I even worked at one as one of my first real jobs. So, you can imagine that things have been shaken up somewhat with the opening of a new one. The Brand New Tipple Park Super A Foods promised to bring big city quality to the small town. Naturally, the little grocery stores that have been here forever are worried. For the tiny towns of Entwistle and Evansburg, this is like Wal-Mart moving in. It’s been open for about a week now, and I finally decided to go check it out.
The Tipple Park Super A Foods gets its name from Tipple Park, which is right next door. How can I describe Tipple Park? Well, back in the early to mid 1990s, the big buzz word was tourism. Every town felt they needed a tourist attraction and the government was handing out tourism grants left and right so small towns could develop their tourism industries. Most towns built the world’s largest something. Evansburg’s contribution was Tipple Park; a collection of run down farmhouses masquerading as an open-air museum. I’ve never actually been to Tipple Park. I’ve driven by it enough times to not really be interested in stopping in and looking around. And now, with the Tipple Park Super A Foods being right next door, I was now taking a close look at Tipple Park as I got out of my car.
One of the most prominent features of Tipple Park is a CN caboose. It’s a modern caboose; bright red and still outfitted with all the modern comforts. These things started popping up in small town parks all over the country when the railways started phasing out cabooses in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I wonder how much money the railways made by selling these old cabooses to small towns. I looked over the caboose and saw its smashed-in windows and graffiti on the side not facing the road. I wonder how many of these cabooses in small town parks are perpetual subjects of vandalism. I turned and walked into the bright, shiny new grocery store.
This place is quite large for a small town; probably about ¾ the size of my old Extra Foods. Only three cash registers. But it does have an ATM and an Alberta Treasury Branch outlet. And the walls were covered with massive murals depicting the ideal of each section of the store. A giant garden mural represented the produce section. A farm scene was for the meat section. An arctic scene with model arctic animals on top of the freezers was for the frozen foods. It all still had that new store look to it.
I separated from my parents to wander about the store and do “my” shopping. It was actually a good excuse to get out and explore. It was a little disconcerting at first. Here I was, in little ol’ Evansburg, but this was a big town grocery store. That was obvious by the selection. First aisle I went to was the breakfast cereal aisle. It was always my favourite aisle. I think it all stems from the fact that they gave away all those cool toys in cereal boxes when I was a kid. I likened the cereal aisle to the toy aisle. And, I can always tell how old the stock is by what promotion is on the cereal boxes. Here, in the new Tipple Park Super A, was the latest promotion Kellogg’s was running: free DVDs. Ooo, Spy Kids. I was running low on breakfast cereal anyway.
I helped myself to one of the free donuts they were giving away as part of their grand opening week and caught up with my parents. They, too, were marvelling at the larger selection and we all shared our concerns about what this may mean for the smaller stores. Will they be eliminated by this one? Will they all find their niches and survive? We all weren’t too sure.
We started making our way towards the checkout. As my parents waited in line to pay, I went outside and started looking around Tipple Park some more. The bright red caboose really doesn’t fit in with all of it. It’s still so new and pristine. It doesn’t really fit in with the run down farmhouse, the run down school house, and the run down train station. Actually, the train station isn’t rundown. It’s fixed up and serves as the tourist information booth in the tourist season. I’m still not sure if Tipple Park really does draw tourists to Evansburg. It just sits there, an eyesore to some, a nuisance to most. As we left, I wondered how long it would be before the other grocery stores were dragged over to the park and added to the collection of old and aging buildings, another attempt at a tourist attraction.
From here, we went to one of the original grocery stores. They had Dad’s favourite brand of yogurt. It appeared that the niches were being filled already. I breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like that, even though Wal-Mart had moved into town, there still might be room for the little guys. Looks like they’ll be around for a little bit longer. Not much changes in little ol’ Entwistle. Not much at all.