Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Bangall Country Store

In the little hamlet of Bangall (seven miles northeast of our home), Artie and Cynthia DiMella opened a small deli and shop twenty-five years ago. The Wendell Barry in me is lamenting this evening because tomorrow the locally-owned Bangall Country Store (or "Artie's" as all of the locals affectionately named the barn) will have its last day of business.

The red barn, nestled into the road bank and sitting adjacent to a classy old post office, holds so many memories for our family. The Bangall Country Store has been Mom and Dad's Saturday morning date destination for the last thirteen years. Artie, the epitome of a generous Italian, often sent home his fresh baked rolls, breads and pastries to us children and during the holidays he often invited the whole family to his store for breakfast, on the house. Artie served, by far, the best sandwiches this side of the Mississippi, most likely having to do with the fact that he made, from scratch, fresh rolls every morning at 3am. How I will miss those rolls! (Before I could drive, I would even bike with a friend to the Bangall Country Store for a meal - it was that good!)
Five summers ago, after I had just graduated from college, I worked with Artie at the Bangall Country Store. Spending forty hours a week in this small-town deli provided a window into Artie and Cynthia's irreplaceable occupation in the community. They seemed to know every customer on a first name business and they would often take a break from the work of the kitchen and simply sit and converse life with their lunch guests. The food at the Bangall Country store was outstanding, but the company of Artie and Cynthia was priceless. I cannot count the people that would stick their head into the kitchen on a given day just to be sure that they said, "Hi" to Artie before leaving.

The Bangall Country Store made us proud of our town - it was a destination where every visiting guest would feel at peace and at home. In a day when so many places of business seem institutionalized, cold and unpersonal, "Artie's" was an emblem of the past, a past where at the end of the day the person at the counter was more important than the possession of money.

Godspeed in your next journey, Artie and Cynthia! The Bangall Country Store will be greatly missed.