The first time I walked into Larry’s I was transported back to my youth. I was six years old, going to a small grocery store with my mom, a store with hand-painted signs, linoleum floors, and neighbors chatting with shopkeepers.
And while today the big box grocery stores are the mainstay, we now know they are not always dependable. They come and they go. Witness the now-departed Kroger stores of New Bern Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Most small grocery stores have disappeared, including one each in the neighborhoods of Boylan Heights and Historic Oakwood. These two stores have been converted into private homes.
The small neighborhood store that can anchor a neighborhood now takes on new shapes, sizes and personalities.
The Brookside Market and Deli will sell you an apple or an ice cold Coke in a bottle, but they also offer a 20-seat restaurant serving pizza and Mediterranean food.
The Grocery Boy Jr. on Lake Wheeler Rd. offers a “table of knowledge” where folks gather for coffee and solve the world’s problems. The Grocery Boy also specializes in NASCAR memorabilia both in the ambiance of the store and items for sale.
While the neighborhood stores have now taken on their own personalities, they all continue to offer a home base to a neighborhood, a place to pick up that quart of milk and a place to chat with friendly face.
Change is the common denominator with these local stores. Steve Byers, owner of the Grocery Boy, said, “There has been a shift. It used to be a person would come in and grab a Pepsi and a pack of Nabs; now it’s a Red Bull and an energy bar.”
Nick Bahhur, a member of the family that owns Brookside Market and Deli, said they will be remodeling their restaurant area in the next month and will be specializing solely in Mediterranean food.
When it comes to stability, nothing beats Larry’s Supermarket on the corner of Milburnie and Colleton roads. Larry’s opened in downtown Raleigh in the 60s and has been in its current location for 42 years.
Larry’s specializes in meat products, buying in bulk and doing all the cutting on site. And even more rare is their meat manager, Charlie Perry, who has been working at Larry’s for 50 years.
On any given afternoon the meat department of Larry’s is alive with slicing and packaging as employees restock the meat shelves. Charlie Perry is involved in all aspects of keeping the meat department operating plus answering customers’ questions.
While Kroger may have left East Raleigh, small community grocers continue to operate throughout the city.
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