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The Belleville Intelligencer

Say a big 'thank you’ when shopping at convenience store

By Chris Malette
Chris Malette ’At Large’ - Friday, April 21, 2006 @ 10:00

Are you someone who likes the convenience of a convenience store?

You know those places where the almost always immigrant proprietor is willing to meet your needs for lottery tickets, light bulbs, a litre of milk or a pack of smokes at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, or any other day when most of us wouldn’t dream of being at work?

Yeah, you love the convenience of the convenience store and you know it. We all do.

Well, take a long, lingering look a picture even, because you’re going to find the mom and pop convenience stores a thing of the past and you’ll have a number of faceless bogey men to thank for it.

The villains in this family tragedy a tragedy that’s taking its toll on scores of hard-working immigrant families, be they Iranian, Lebanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino or Vietnamese are many, though.

They include the federal and provincial health ministries, the local health unit, the federal revenue agencies that oversee tobacco products, insurance companies, hoods out to make a fast buck ... the list goes on. And they’re all lined up with your corner store owner/operator in their sights. It’s just a matter of when they’re going to pull the trigger.

The feds and the provincial health ministries are waging war on tobacco. We all know it’s an evil, addictive habit but one that’s legal, last time I checked, and nowhere is a product so targeted, outside of liquor in good old god-fearing Ontario.
Sure, smokers need to stop. But targeting the hard-working people who happen to provide smokes in their stores because that’s where the money is, honey is like trying to run farmers off the land because hamburgers at fast-food joints are causing obesity.

And how’d you like to be in competition, for sales of your top-selling product, with Indian reserves right outside your back door that sell smokes of all descriptions for a third of the cost you do?

Hey, if you want a plastic bag full of nameless weeds that, for all anyone knows, contains all manner of twigs, bark, seeds and cockroach legs from a place that doesn’t care nor does its government in any way regulate it, fill your boots.

But, know this: you’re killing that family at the corner who’s always there for your paper, pack of gum or flashlight batteries when the power goes out.

Remember the blackout of 2003? Who were the only people who got your bread, milk, batteries and, yes, smokes to you? That’s right. The corner store operator who did it by candlelight long after the people from the big retail stores shuttered up their businesses and sent all their employees home.

When a convenience store owner looks to be keeping his or her head above water barely there’s a punk out to make a quick buck by piling a truck into a back door or through the front wall and carting off cartons as quick as his greasy hands can load the loot. Then the insurance company kicks our entrepreneur in the stones by telling him or her it’s too costly to insure the place and the corner store owner eats the thousands in losses on subsequent thefts because he or she can’t afford to pay the Shylocks at the insurance shake down office.

No one, least of all the band council that purportedly looks out for the well-being of the Mohawks who live on Tyendinaga Territory, seems to want to confront the issue of freewheeling butt bootlegging from the back doors and front doors of legitimate businesses to converted garden sheds and fishing huts. Everyone, it seems, is too busy making a quick buck to give a rat’s rump about the impact of this bizarre spectacle, but, there you go.

Plus ca change...

It all comes down to a disturbing lack of spine in speaking out against the foes that are either purposefully or by collateral damage while wrapping themselves in cloaks of virtue or the fog of indifference about to stuff a shiv into the very heart of the family-run convenience story.

Take a good look at your friendly neighbourhood corner store. Go on in, buy a paper, read this screed, if you like, then head on down to the rez and pick up a sack of Insect Particle Milds and kick your neighbourhood store owner in the teeth, why don’t you?

cmalette@intelligencer.ca