Do you remember Western Auto®? Long before big-box stores and their parking lots filled acres of land around the edges of cities, small-town Americans went shopping for kitchen appliances, televisions, washing machines, beds, lawn mowers, and bicycles in a compact, family-owned store like those. It was the kind of place, as Bill tells the true story of when he was growing up, that before you purchased one, would lend you two TVs to try out, even on Super Bowl Sunday. Guess what store we stopped into last week on Carcassonne’s pedestrian shopping street.
Although a store called Denjean doesn’t sound anything like the name of its American counterpart described above, it has all of the positive attributes some of us may remember from shopping years ago. When we first walked in, a smiling salesman asked if he could help us find something. Just as I got the words out about buying a new home his smile got even broader and his arms went up in that universal sign of GOAL seen usually at European or American football matches. He even uttered “Yes!” in English that we have often heard on game shows here when a contestant wins a big prize. We knew that this man was going to be fun to work with.
The store’s slogan is “Real Advice” and that’s exactly what we got for the next 15 minutes about the differences between refrigerators, what to look for in energy consumption vs. energy rating, how to spot an especially quiet dishwasher, and which appliances would best suit our needs. He even slowed down his French to ensure that we understood what he was saying, especially that the price includes delivery and set-up, a rarity here in our experience. When I repeated that part back to him, his reply was “That’s right, you don’t have to do anything…except pay!”
So how did we find this gem? Just by walking in and around our current and new neighborhoods. We’ve taken the city bus many times out to the big-box shopping centers and now it was time to see what we could find closer in. In less than 2 minutes from our new front door there’s a wine shop, 2 bakeries, 2 banks with ATMs, 2 fish shops, a fresh fruits & vegetables market, a grocery store, and at least 4 restaurants. Double the distance and you double the number of those businesses. Here, small town shopping isn’t really all that small.