The large, mogul- or corporation-operated stores have not yet infiltrated every part of every large town. But in every large town I have visited so far, I could find everything I was looking for. There are small, family-owned businesses dedicated to just about anything you might need. I love the feeling of community this generates.
In the area where my niece Sara lives, within two blocks of her house she can purchase vegetables, meat, bread and tortillas, and dairy products for her meals. In the store where you buy vegetables you can also find cooked beans and home-made salsa(in small plastic bags, both). Next door to her house is a family that offers electrical services and repair. Across the street is a small place that offers computer use. (For about a dollar an hour). Within a couple of blocks in the other direction there is a paint store, a hairdresser, a dry cleaner. A couple of blocks further sits the town’s large market, or mercado. Inside the large building you can find a great variety of products including clothing and shoes. Crowded around outside are a myriad of other products - used tools, hand-made and hand-sewn items, watch bands, T-shirts, famous pirated musical CD’s and movies. Across the street from the mercado you can get copies made, see a dentist, or recharge your phone.
When we went to San Pancho the other day, we walked to a small phone store to get phone service, then to a jewelry store (the owner is married to one of Chon’s nieces); we visited our attorney and the friendly pharmacist, the bank, and then we hoped to find a screw. And not just any old screw. It was a special kind of screw that is used to hold large speakers in their places in several giant speaker cabinets that we use for live band performances. We went to El Bola, the hardware guy. He sent us to an auto parts store a block away,and the very funny, joking elderly owner sent us to an auto sound store, and the young guys there sent us to a place a couple of blocks away that is - ta-da! a screw store. Really! There were other hardware-type items available, but the place specializes in screws. It’s even called El Tornillo, The Screw. Instead of wrinkling his brow in a perplexed way as had all the other shopkeepers, this guy, instead of saying, “Let me see if I have it”, said “How many?” Eureka!
Near The Screw, I recall, are several large businesses that sell only ceramic tile. And paints. And chiles of all types.
Shoes and well-made leather items are affordable in our part of the state of Guanajuato, and you might see a man laboring, wearing good leather shoes. There are many shoe and tennis shoe factories. Billboards advertise “Say No To Pirated Soles”. I assume these are aimed at the numerous factory owners. Just the fact that the signs are there is a indication of the number of shoe factories, isn’t it?
This kind of shopping may not appeal to everybody, especially those of us who are impatient or accustomed to making one stop for many things. For those people, there are stores like Waldo, the dollar store. Everything there costs about a dollar, just like the Ninety-Nine-Cent Stores in the US. The stock changes often, and things you saw there last week might not still be available, but you are sure to find something similar. You can find sundries, toys, and lots of household items for cleaning.
The last few years have seen the coming of very large Wall-Mart-type stores, too. A well-known store, La Bodega (The Warehouse), offers a very large variety of foods and household items and electronics, as well as automobile supplies and a pharmacy.
Some enterprising vendors take their products to the small towns like ours, called ranchos. On Tuesdays a vegetable vendor comes and sets up a tent-like roof and displays boxes of vegetables, most of them at very reasonable prices, and in good condition. Today a pick-up came through town with very nice oranges and mandarins for sale, about five pounds for less than a dollar. A couple of trucks come through daily with tanks of propane for household use. A nursery truck comes through every couple of weeks.
And of course, our rancho has its own stores. They are small, but there are several. They carry household necessities in very small packages, just the right size for people with small amounts of money to spend. You can buy an envelope of Pantene shampoo for about 20 cents, a very large bottle of Coca-Cola for about $1.50, a smallish bottle of Clorox or a package of dish soap, as well as a limited selection of vegetables, beans, and pastas. Women and children are the main patrons of these spots.
Chon resents these family stores. There is one right across the street owned by the Franco family (relatives, of course), that has been there for over 40 years. A problem directly related to the store causes us frustration; the Francos sell beer. (and, I recently noticed, tequila) The patrons tend to sit in front of the store on weekend nights, drinking their beers. This leads to two inevitable results - arguments, and elimination. The beer drinkers often find their way onto our property to, well, you know - eliminate. We have had some hilarious fun thinking of ways to solve this problem. Motion-sensitive lights? Alarms? Try to get a court order for the Francos to disallow drinking? Try to force the Francos to install a toilet?
Anyway, if you ask around, you will find just about everything you need. Package and mail delivery? Yes. Auto repair? Of course. Computer repair? Yup. Chinese restaurant? Fabrics and threads? Washing machine or blender? Yes, yes, and yes. Right around the block, or within a mile or so.