The Shell of the Former Corner Grocery Store at Alliance and Spear in Arcata

(A repost of last year from my old blog)

In the neighborhood where I grew up in East Bakersfield, there were four neighborhood grocery stores within a five or six block distance from our house. In those days, the nineteen-sixties, people from our class of neighborhoods frequented these stores. We had nearby supermarkets where our parents did the bulk of their shopping, but the corner store was something that all of us frequented. This was especially true for us kids. We took our allowances, and I took my lawn-mowing earnings and spent money in the small store on candy and soda pop. It is just what we did.

I think another reason these stores survived is that many of them offered charge accounts. One of my friend’s mother often sent my friend and I to fetch some things for her, including cigarettes. The store clerk would write down the total on a card that was kept at the register. I suspect that charges accounted for a large part of their sales, and I am sure that they helped keep the store going.

Nowadays, I think the corner/neighborhood store was replaced with the newer style convenience store, and with the little stores in gas stations. I am uncertain as to what caused the demise of this store in Arcata. I think as of ten years ago it was still operating. It looks to me that it will not be restored. It looks like it is being allowed to decay, and I wonder how long before it becomes a hazard. I wish I knew its name.

I have been wanting to photograph this structure for quite some time, but I would only think of it whenever I drove by on some other errand. Last night when I went to bed I told myself to wake up at six. I repeated the command a couple of times, and at exactly six, I woke. So I went photographing in the dawn light.


About Thomas Bethune

THOMAS ALLEN BETHUNE I have been interested in photography for most of my life. I started taking photographs with a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera when I was eight years old. My early subjects were trains and engineered structures as well as landscapes and family portraits. My interests and vision have matured, but the subjects that catch my eye continue to be of the same genre as my earliest visions. A neighbor man had a darkroom, and he showed me the basics of camera operation and darkroom processing. I took courses in art and photography in high school and college. I worked as an apprentice to a commercial wedding and event photographer, and I was in charge of a recreational dark room while I was in the military. As an adult, I earned a bachelor’s degree in photography from Humboldt State University. My experience with film formats included 35mm, 2 ¼”, and 4”x 5”. I exhibited at galleries near my home in Arcata California, and in Santa Fe New Mexico. All my current work is digital. I am scanning many of my legacy negatives and slides. I sometimes process and print the scanned negatives. I often post them on my blog. I process all of my prints with archival media. An award winning fine art photographer living in a redwood forest. BA Photography Director, Redwood Art Association, Eureka CA Co-curator, F Street Foto Gallery, Eureka CA
This entry was posted in arcata, California, grocery store, store front, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Maya says:

    I’m not one to jump on the “Good Oldl’ Days” bandwagon, the one that takes us back to a time when “things were better” but…there are certain aspects that I do miss and they generally involve a sense of community. I visited my folks a few years ago, still living in a semi-rural setting at the time, and found a small, neighborhood market close by their home. I could tell that many of the people who walked in and out of there knew someone. Even if it was just the cashier they’d checked out with on numerous times, there was still conversation and some small connection. This is one thing I mourn about passing of the corner stores. Another is the fact that bigger is not necessarily better. My bad knees tell me that a little extra money spent at a smaller mart is a much better value than walking a hundred yards or more to save a buck.

  2. Photographer says:

    Don Mahler has a photograph of this store from back in the days. It was called “Alliance Store” if I recall correctly. I’ve lived here and been past that corner 100s of times when it was open, going btwn HSU and my grandmother’s house out near the MRCH. I have a photograph of it, too, in the state it’s in now. It’s alluring to me, for much the reasons you state. I think you need to go back and get closer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s