When I moved to the neighbourhood in which I grew up in 1974, the local corner store was called Manor Park Grocery. However, every one in the hood knew it as “Nick’s”. It was run by a married couple named Nick and Lucy. I remember one of their nephews working there and maybe a younger son, eventually. But for the most part it was always Nick or Lucy behind the counter. And they lived in what couldn’t have been bigger than a two bedroom apartment above the store. The kids called them by their first names, the parents did too. We went there when we had an extra buck and wanted some chips and a coke. There were steps out front where we would sit as we gobbled down our treats and hoped for a free coupon in the bags of our Yum Yum chips. I swear I turned 25 cents into four bags of chips one summer afternoon with a great string of coupon luck.
Nick’s was a meeting place for kids. Eventually, some of us would buy cigarettes there as time marched on, being replaced by the younger kids who would take our place on the steps. Bikes laying on their sides at the foot of those steps. I don’t remember a bike lock in the group.
Nick and Lucy got a little greyer just as our parents did. And then, as to be expected, most of us moved away and depending on whether our parents stayed in the area, most of us never came back.
Tonight, I returned to Nick’s and Nick was behind the counter. Forty two years later. Again, I bought some pop from him -two cans of Fresca for my Frodkas- and it cost considerably more than 25 cents. And the guy behind me buying whatever he was buying said, “hey Nick, how are ya tonight?” Nick. Still a name in the neighbourhood that everyone knows. A life well lived and an integral part of a wonderful place to grow up. For generations.