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Filed under: Destination Camping & RV Resorts, RV Campgrounds, Scenic Byways/Historic Routes, The Road Less Traveled

Thank Goodness for the Little Man

July 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 


If you are a fan of Country Music, no doubt you have heard the song Little Man by Alan Jackson.

It tells a story that is painfully true of changes, especially those effecting small towns that have experienced the inclusion of one or more of the big box chain stores.  In many American small town localities the little specialty stores that served the public for decades have shuttered their doors and are gone – unable to compete on a cost-per-item basis with the massive buying power of these huge retailers.

In my own home town of Mechanicsville, VA, I was distressed when our local hardware store closed within a year after the opening of our Home Depot.  The little hardware store carried a variety of items that the big box stores don’t, and if the hardware store did not have something you needed – they would find it for you.

One of the more exciting things about our RV trips to Emerald Isle is the opportunity to visit Ace Sound HardwareHonest – I’m not kidding!  This hardware store to me is like a candy store is to a kid.

Sound Hardware was here when we started coming to Emerald Isle in 1985.  It has continued to serve both the seasonal and full-time residents of this southern barrier island for over 4 decades.  Inside you will find hardware items that can make a mechanical junkie or home repair guy’s heart beat increase to near cardio levels from just the excitement of looking at all of the items that you cannot find anywhere else.

About 3 years ago a big Lowe’s store opened on the other side of the John Langston Bridge in Cedar Point.  According to one of the long time employees at Ace Sound Hardware, it hurt their business considerably.  But, they are bouncing back as some old customers return and new ones find the customer service and selection of discrete hardware items readily available.

Hundreds of boxes fulled with every imaginable hardware fastener and item - right at your fingertips!

On this particular visit to the store I found myself filling multiple little plastic bags with things like stainless steel tooth washers, nylon nuts and bolts, lawn chair re-webbing kits, real corks, bronze motor shaft collars, T-nuts and copper rivets.  All items that I could never expect to find in a big box store.

While this is exciting to me, it is also sad.  These small “specialty” stores have decreased by the thousands in recent years – their wares now almost exclusively offered through Internet suppliers.

Change is inevitable.  To quote yet another Country Music song, Time Marches On, recorded by Tracy Lawrence, The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.

The campground at Emerald Isle and the surrounding community have changed considerably in the 25 years we have been migrating back here.  But, so have we.

My first trip to Emerald Isle was in a 19’ foot Vega camper pulled by a hopped-up 1956 Studebaker pick-up truck.  The nearest Laundromat was in Swansboro since the Island did not have sufficient sewage treatment facilities to support one.  There was no Food Lion grocery store – once again we had to drive 12 miles into Swansboro to a Piggly-Wiggly for our bread and milk.  Big rig sites with 50 amp hook-ups did not exist in the campground.  Traffic on the island  was relatively light and nearby Coast Guard Road was a lonely, deserted stretch of pavement going to the juncture of the Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

Beach Hats, Sunglasses, Tiki Torches and even Ice Cream are stocked at Ace Sound Hardware.

Now, traffic on highway 58 down the middle of the barrier island is often bumper to bumper with nary a break to enter the procession from a side road without a traffic light.  Coast Guard Road is heavily populated with driveways leading to condos and beach-front multiple family rental homes.

But the Holiday Trav-L-Park where we come is still here; owned by the same family for at least 36 years.  Ronnie Watson, the principal owner, promises me he is going to keep it a campground and has resisted the offers by big investors to purchase the land and turn it into yet another mass of condominiums.  When we arrive at the campground, Ronnie, Stacy, William and other members of the staff recognize us and welcome us back by name.  It is like a homecoming.

It is hard for the little man to exist in today’s economy – but some do.  My hat is off to Ace Sound Hardware and the Holiday Trav-L-Park on Emerald Isle for hanging in there as the Little Man.


One Response to “Thank Goodness for the Little Man”
  1. Sarah W says:

    This is a good point. I miss the specialty stores. When you go into Home Depot, your hard-pressed to find someone who can really give advice and help. Yet, we still shop at the large stores… I just bought a gift at the wal-mart, when I really should be boycotting it. RVers are the worst – they visit walmart and like to stay there in the parking lot – totally forgetting that the rv park down the street is going to suffer because they aren’t staying there. In this economy especially, RVers should be helping out the small businesses as they travel. We should go to the small local shops and restaurants and stay in the family owned RV parks when we can. Besides, the service there is always great and we’ll probably be happier anyway.

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