Couple's store a throwback to mom-and-pop days

Monday, July 24, 2006
Robert Gentry and his wife, Mary, will be opening a new corner convenience store at 439 Broadway. (Fred Lynch)

Thinking back to his days of growing up in Lexington, Ky., Robert Gentry remembers the corner store as a place where neighbors gathered to chat about topics across the board while sipping on Cokes.

"People have forgotten the old mom-and-pop corner stores," Gentry said. "For a couple years, we've been thinking about it, and we want to try and help folks remember."

To that end, Gentry and his wife, Mary, are in the process of opening such a store in Cape Girardeau that will be a throwback to the old days and a far cry from the new Wal-Mart world.

The Corner Store is expected to open the third week of August at 439 Broadway, near the epicenter of many developments currently taking place -- the under-construction federal building, the recently opened Marquette Towers and the still fairly new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

"We think there will be a need for this kind of store," said Mary Gentry. "At the old corner store, it was a place where you could send your kids that was safe and within walking distance. There's not much like that anymore."

The Corner Store will be a small grocery store, offering items like eggs, milk and convenience store offerings like soda, cigarettes and chips. A few aisles in the small, 588-square-foot spot will also hold candy, soda, canned vegetables, peanuts and sodas. Also in the store will be prepared sandwiches and lunch meat.

"We think it's much needed for the area," Robert Gentry said. "It will hopefully be a place where people can walk to get some of those essentials without having to drive all the way to Sprigg Street or all the way out to Kingshighway."

Gentry added: "And with gas prices the way they are, people are going to want to walk. ... We want to feel like a part of the neighborhood, not just a retailer coming in."

The couple, which also owns a small jewelry business, is unlike Wal-Mart in other ways -- they're the owners, but they're also doing all the work themselves. They're having a five-door cooler shipped in and they're doing the remodeling work themselves, including painting, plastering and cleanup.

They hope to get customers and friends.

"We want them to know us and us to know them," Robert Gentry said. "We're trying to be realistic: We know starting a small business is always an uphill climb, but we hope over time, we'll build ourselves a nice little small business. If we do it the way we say, we've got as good a chance as anybody of being successful."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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