Counter Culture



Aproject to document the unique experience of mom and pop grocery stores in the Midwest picks up more than 30 years later to find out what happened to the businesses.


Reba, Gerald and Wanda Kommer, Kommer Grocery in Metropolis, Ill., 1982. Gerald Kommer, who has lived in Atlanta and St.Louis but has returned to Metropolis to live, says his mother and grandmother were the two most important people in his life. 

Irma Nunn, owner of the Old Mill Store in Burfordville, Mo., 1982. When Nick Stern bought Nunn's house it included the stand-alone store, which he uses as his workshop. 

Twyla Parkins owned and operated the Adair Cafe in Adair, Ill. in 1984. It's had different owners and has undergone renovations since then but the cafe is still popular thanks to Barb Featherlin, who has owned it for the past ten years. 

Joann Sperry and her husband, Howard, took over operation of Sperry Sundries in Alexis, Ill. in 1963 from Howard's parents and they ran it together for more than 24 years. She said they watched the kids in town grow up. "I'm a people person and I missed the people when we closed." The contents were auctioned off and the building sold in the mid-1980s but it deteriorated and was eventually razed. Today a storage building sits in the gap left by the missing facade. Joann posed with a painting of the store.  

Angelo and Tillie Forneris' store in Ellisville, Ill. used to be a bank but it's safe to say it was more popular when the couple turned it into a store that sold fresh meat, dairy, groceries and as all small markets did, penny candy. Today the space is used for selling crafts made by area residents, including Becky Powell who owns the building. It's open during special events such as the Sassafras Festival and Spoon River Days.  

Edgar Naeger's store in River Aux Vasses, Mo., 1982. The Naeger store closed in 1990 and was demolished six years later.

Don Albright, owner of the Kozy Korner Kafe in Goreville, Ill., 1982. The former restaurant and shop is now the home of NFL Bookkeeping and Tax Service, owned by David Westfall.

Lawerence Fatheree ran the Wayne City Sundries store on Main Street next to the railroad tracks in Wayne City. A Citgo gas station and convenience store sits in the same spot. Gereal Greenwalt, Benny Greenwalt, Carroll Greenwalt and Eric Dougherty are a few of the regulars who gather there.

Bill and Mary Sue Sargent opened Sargent's store in 1964, which was attached to the front of their home in Hiram, a tiny community in rural Missouri. The Sargent’s had closed out the store in 1994 and were remodeling it to add living space to their home when an electrical fire destroyed it. Following Mary Sue’s death just a few years later, Bill remarried and eventually built a new home on the same spot.

Virgil Kline pumped gas, fixed cars and sold groceries from his spot on the corner of Illinois 15 and County Road 2400 East near Fairfield, Ill, which was knows as Kline's corner. His son Richard remodeled the building and uses it for his law practice.

Herschel Owens' barbershop at Seventh and Pearl streets in Metropolis, Ill., 1982. The city purchased the property and today it is the home of the Metropolis Fire Department, where firefighter Clay Childer is stationed. 

Tommy Roach at Roach's Store in Grand Chain, Ill., 1982. Today, Ray Fish owns the building where he repairs and sells used computers. 

Tressa Marchildon and her husband, Frank, sold groceries, fresh meat and sundry items from their store in McClure, Ill. Jennifer Rhymer lives in the upstairs of the building today and runs a buy-sell-trade business with her partner Joe Livingston.

Norbert Pautler at Pautler's Red & White grocery in Murphysboro, Ill., 1982. His nephew, Mark Pautler, was photographed in the same space. It now is Cummare's Italian Restaurant, a popular spot for lunch and dinner across the street from the Jackson County courthouse. 

Darlene Lane Littrell, 17, worked part-time for Rose and Gary Reed in their store near Cave in Rock, Ill., 1982. The Reeds razed the old building and replaced it with a new, larger store on the same spot, but it closed in 1993. Littrell and her family still live in the area.

Poplar Street in Cairo, Ill. at one time had a market on almost every corner, residents say. Frankie's Variety Store at the corner of 24th and Poplar streets was one of them. It was owned by Frankie Kol, who was known to let people have food on credit during rough times. After Kol closed the business and moved to Chicago, the building fell into disrepair and eventually collapsed. 

Thelma Higgins and her husband, Donald, owned and operated Higgins' Five and Dime store on East Locust Street in Chatsworth, Ill. It's now the office of the Illinois State Rifle Association, where Richard Pearson is executive director.

Clinton Modglin at Modglin's market in Villa Ridge, Ill., 1982. The vacant building still sits along Old U.S. 51. 

Everett Vinson personalized his store near Vienna, Ill. by placing family pictures on the shelves alongside the merchandise. They included two framed photos of his sons, Gary and Bobby, which he had made in 1953 and hung high on the wall. Everett and his wife, Halloween, ran the business for 45 years; it closed in 1990. Gary was photographed on the site of the old store holding the portrait of himself as a 7-year-old.

Walter McCormick and his grandson Shaun at McCormick's Texaco and store in Wayne City, Ill., 1982. Walter and his wife Wanda ran the store for 34 years, living in a house adjoining the store. Walter died in 1994 and the store closed a few months later. Today, Shaun works as a heavy equipment operator.