When I leave the city for the cottage, I always have a few things on my mind. Did I remember to pack everything? Do I have the dog leash? What’s the weather looking like? Do I need to get gas? These questions race through my mind once I throw the last bag in the car and hesitate with the hatch open and the engine running. This is the moment when the heat waves from the concrete rise up around me and mingle threateningly with the exhaust—literally insisting me to get in the car and to start driving. Or else suffocate.
Like everyone, I usually leave something behind that I meant to bring up to the cottage. But the one thing I never fail to miss is the quintessential pit stop. There are a few great places to stop en route, but what I’m talking about is the fantastic, eclectic, and always surprising cottage convenience store. These shops (and they’re everywhere!) are really more like bazaars the way they tend to carry a little of this and a little of that and—surprise!—Styrofoam tubs full of worms.
Cheese curds and worms
I really do love that I can get fresh cheese curds from a local farmer on the shelf next to the worm tubs. I’m actually fond of that black earth-smelling container and the living “squimies” that are inside of it. To be honest, I haven’t put a worm on a fishing hook since I was a fearless child, but that faint smell always takes me back to memories of fishing in the old tin boat with my dad and having to dip my hands over the side to get the black crud off.
Cottage convenience stores also have the best candy selection. The selection is usually vintage, including but never limited to Jawbreakers, Double Bubbles (with comics!), Big Foots, Cherry Blasters, and Coke-bottle gummies, and sometimes you can even find packets of Big League Chew. The best candy corners even have the glass jars from the bygone days of penny candy. You remember the jars that had the little silver tongs that you never used to pluck out your candies and drop into your brown, paper bag? They should have called them finger candies or more appropriate yet, germy candies. Germs aside, all I cared about was filling my bag for a dollar and licking the sugar off my fingers when I was done!
Crafts, baked goods and VHS movies
Of course, the local produce and artisan factor is the other great charm about cottage convenience stores. I know that the store I visit will soon have baskets of juicy peaches and (hairy?) husks of corn overflowing in wicker baskets on the front porch. On the inside, I can find homemade gooey butter tarts and cinnamon buns, wrapped in plastic and still warm. In the back, there will be hand-made jewelry, knitted socks and beautiful pottery on consignment from the artist down the road. Beside that, there’s a dusty VHS video rental collection. I must have rented Back to the Future and Dirty Dancing a thousand times each. And because it’s the cottage convenience store, they probably only cost me a cumulative $25 for the last 25 years.
Need I say more? Pop into your local cottage convenience store and walk down memory lane. Treat yourself to this experience … and maybe a butter tart.