Renee and I just returned from a trip to Missouri which included a visit to the Ozarks. Renee lived in the area for several years as a young girl with her mom and two older brothers. Some 30 years have gone by since, but she still remembers the little country store that her mom once owned, which her mom bought from “Ray”. She later resold it back to Ray after a few years before moving away to another state.
During a visit to see some family in Missouri, we ventured back on an old rural road (route 76) in the Ozarks to see if the old store was still standing.
To Renee’s delight, it was. We went inside and found Ray who is now probably in his late 60’s, sporting a superb tie-dye t-shirt and looking every bit the laid-back epitome of the stoner era from the 1960’s. From our first glance at the outside, we weren’t sure if the store was still in operation but we saw a dimly lit OPEN sign flashing in the noon day, and found the front door unlocked.
Ray’s collection of store merchandise was a fun delight to see. There was the usual convenience store fare — candy bars, snacks, beer, sodas and other popular grocery store items. But being that this was Missouri, hard liquor was also available, located not far from an interesting selection of pipes, hookah and other smoking paraphernalia. Scattered and hanging about were lots of interesting tie dye t-shirts, jackets, and posters. And off to the side, there was a little “adult area” which you entered by passing through a classic wall of 1960’s beads hanging down from the ceiling.
Walking through the beads reminded me of my older sister’s bedroom. She loved her beads that hung near her door, which served as a symbolic upbeat doorway to her sanctuary. Of course, my sister didn’t possess the fun collection of adult toys and gadgets that Ray had behind the counter (or at least, I don’t think she did). There were several dildos, vibrators, butt plugs and other fun novelties to choose from. On the other side of the room, Ray had quite a collection of adult DVD’s to choose from along with a nice rack of porn magazines.
It really did feel like we stepped back in time, but not in a bad way. This was fun, and I loved Ray’s friendly attitude. It was nicely tempered with a hint of “I don’t give a fuck if you approve or not”. But Ray had no worries from us. We certainly approved.
Ray has a small website about his store, and I love how he describes it all:
We are glad you stopped by and encourage you to visit our Country Store in the beautiful Ozarks along Historic Hwy. 76 near Vanzant Missouri. We have been serving the community since 1932 with quality products, hard to find items and many conveniences that are just not available elsewhere. We have a friendly atmosphere, good hours and we are just minutes from some of the best swimming holes in the area.
Now, it’s not everyday that you get to swing back in time to a place where service and friendship abound. We take pride in our laid back style and could really care less if you ain’t got your shoes or shirt on. Were just glad to see ya!
True to his word, Ray (and even some other fellow customers who stopped by) were laid back and friendly. So if you’re ever in the Ozarks and looking for an interesting place to visit, pop in and say hi to Ray. We’re glad we did.