Tag Archives: Convenience store

20. Tote-Sum Stores (‘Cause We’re All About Convenience)

29 Jan

One day my sister calls me up and says, “Do you know what a tote-sum store is?”

I say, “Duh, it’s like a 7-11.”

“Shawn has never heard of a tote-sum!” She never ceases to be amazed that her husband is neither A. a Southerner or B. a democrat. But I digress…

Upon researching this post, I was surprised to discover that most folks outside of the Jackson, MS, area likely haven’t heard of a tote-sum either. Seems that there was once a small chain of actual “Tote-sum” stores, whose name was so catchy that it quickly became synonymous with any local convenience store.

These days across the South, tote-sum stores are quickly being usurped by big name gas stations that have joined forces with Domino’s, Taco Bell, and the like. So now you can get gas and, um, gas at the same place. But back in the day, you’d find all kinds of food-like substances at the local convenience store: Icees, fried chicken, boiled peanuts, donuts, and the ever-popular “tater logs.”

Sure, maybe the restrooms at those chain places are a little less frightening. Perhaps the shelves are dusted a little more regularly. Maybe the dairy products are rotated a little more frequently, but I still have a soft spot for a good, old-fashioned tote-sum store.

When I was growing up, my sister and I would walk up to Bernie’s where we could get chips, candy, and bottled Cokes just for signing our names on a slip of paper. It was a perilous journey (maybe a mile in the summer heat along a road without sidewalks. Uphill. Both ways.) but that just made the snacks that much more tasty.

Eventually, the credit system was replaced by an actual cash register (or maybe Dad put the kibosh on our too-frequent charges), but still we’d save up quarters and waste countless afternoons playing Ms. Pac Man.

About a year ago, one of those slick new gas/fast food joints popped up about a block from my childhood home. I haven’t been in there, so I can’t say what it’s like. But there aren’t any old men out front playing dominoes, so that’s probably a bad sign.

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