» Anachronism: A person, place or thing that is chronologically out of place; one from a former age that is incongruous in the present.

Anachronism: A person, place or thing that is chronologically out of place; one from a former age that is incongruous in the present.

 

Items for sale in front of Clarke Hardware, Culpeper, VA Items for sale in front of Clarke Hardware, Culpeper, VA

In last week’s blog post, I ventured a social and psychological explanation for our present day fascination with all things restored, reclaimed, renewed and repurposed.  We now frequently hear the phrases, “What’s old is new again!”  “Retro is the way to go!”  “Old school is cool!”  This week, I want to acknowledge and admire those things that never faded or ceased to exist, even when, to most others, their style, philosophy or methods had.  I’m speaking of those places and things which have, without interruption, withstood the test of time.

Those who know me will tell you that I am not a slave to fashion.  My wife often pleads with me to throw away certain of my perfectly functional, if frayed outdated and threadbare articles of clothing, and go shopping for new clothes.  Shopping for new clothes can be painful, but discarding my current wardrobe is unthinkable.  It fits, it’s comfortable, and it looks…well, okay to me.   Consequently, I have a fifty-year-old necktie collection.

Now, I have always regarded the necktie as probably the most ridiculous item of male sartorial garnish ever invented. For that reason, my necktie collection, while representative of a half century’s worth of styles, is relatively small.  And, because there are still occasions which require that I wear a tie, I try to give equal time to each in my collection.

I remember a few years ago, every time I wore one of my knitted ties, somebody would have to comment about my dated, anachronistic accessorizing. Nevertheless, I never stopped wearing them.  Today, others are wearing knitted ties, and mine are once again considered stylish and contemporary!

I grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and then moved to Culpeper 32 years ago.  In both communities, I witnessed the exodus of the retail merchants from downtown to the new, outlying malls and shopping centers.  I saw the abandoned downtown areas fall into disuse and disrepair for decades.  Then came the Renaissance and Main Street initiatives, and these areas have been joyfully reborn, reoccupied and revisited!

Clarke Hardware, one of the original hardware stores in downtown Culpeper, VA Clarke Hardware, one of the original hardware stores in downtown Culpeper, VA

This brings me to the topic of this dissertation.  In both Fredericksburg and Culpeper there are a very small number of those downtown businesses which did not defect to the malls when all around them did, and managed to stay in business in their original locations despite their crumbling surroundings, until the masses returned. This is nothing less than a glowing testament to their courteous customer service and general business acumen.

In downtown Fredericksburg, Goolrick’s Modern Pharmacy has conducted business in the same location since 1863!  It now boasts the nation’s oldest running soda fountain.  Just up the street, one can purchase shoes at Crismond’s Shoe Shop which has been open for business since 1901!

Culpeper Machine & Supply Co Culpeper Machine & Supply Co

In our lovely downtown Culpeper, we are so fortunate to have Clarke’s Hardware which has been doing business on the corner of East and Davis Streets for 106 years!  Here, Claude and Wanda Minnick continue to sell Radio Flyer Wagons, cast iron cookware and even washboards from their new old stock along with just about any hardware, household or gardening item one may need.  At the other end of the block from Clarke’s Hardware sits Culpeper Machine and Supply Company. This July, Charlie and Al Feagan will celebrate 40 years of business in the same location.  At Culpeper Machine and Supply, customers can enjoy the atmosphere of an old school machine shop that continues to produce superior, quality work using vintage, hand-operated milling and metal working tools.

Most importantly, what has also never changed with these businesses is their friendly, courteous, patient commitment to pleasing their customers.  And, while my knit neckties will go in and out of style, this attitude never will.

Fondly submitted,

Marty Carroll

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