Community and the Corner Store

In a three-block stretch of Phillips Avenue, in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota, there are currently six different places to order a caffe latte. There is a store that features handmade quilts, another whose specialty is crafts from villages in the Third World, and still another that sells only dolls and stuffed bears. There is a store whose entire inventory is made of hemp.

But there are many things that are very difficult to find on Phillips Avenue: a pair of men’s socks; an iron; a vacuum cleaner; a TV or radio; a gallon of milk, a carton of eggs, a pound of hamburger, a box of detergent.

Not long ago, of course, all of these things were sold in large quantities on Phillips Avenue. It has been the main business street of Sioux Falls almost since the city’s founding in the 1870s. It was the hub of local commercial life in the 1880s, when the original dirt sidewalks were replaced by wooden planks; in the 1920s, when electric trolleys clanged up and down the street all day; in the 1970s, when cars were banished to make a pedestrian mall; and in the 1980s, when the mall was taken out and the cars returned. And it retains that distinction today.

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