I live in a pretty, tree-shaded neighborhood. Nestled at the edge is the Little Store. This sweet little market has been an essential feature of the area since 1924. In the 20 years or so I have lived here, the Little Store has always been the place to run to for the missing ingredient, for great produce and meats, and friendly knowledgeable service. It has a candy counter for the school kids. (I imagine most of us can remember counting out our change to buy those silly candy-dots-stuck-to-paper and sugar-filled straws.) The current owners have added an espresso machine and a deli. They also carry specialty items from Spain and Italy, local organic produce and ethically-produced meats. They make terrific dinners to take home and heat up, and can give expert cooking advice. The Little Store is not its real name, but nearly everyone calls it that.
My husband grew up in New York City. He describes living in a densely urban area where all the services you needed were in easy walking distance, from the grocery, restaurants and drug store to the florist and cleaners. I grew up in suburbia and took it for granted that the car was necessary for all errands. Here we are in between - a close-in neighborhood of single-family houses on small lots. It is a nice place to walk, with sidewalks and slow-moving traffic, and bus stops close by. The Little Store acts as a favorite destination, making it, in effect, the center of the neighborhood, the place where you see your neighbors. I consider it a blessing.