Should you ever venture down West Virginia State Route 10, half way between Huntington and Logan there is a spot you really need to stop and visit. It's Tiny Lucas' Grocery Store in "downtown" Ranger. Now, basically Ranger is just a wide spot in the road, so the store is not hard to find. Tiny Lucas (a distant cousin of my Dad's) lives in the trailer behind the store, and along with his sister "Peep", has been the proprietor of this mercantile endeavor for as long as I can remember. That's Peep in the photo with my grandsons, Will and Asher, with Great Grumpa and Great Grandma Adkins looking on. We had stopped by for a brief visit on the way to a reunion in Logan. Dad usually stops to visit Tiny when he can. He usually can't get out of the place until Peep fixes him a free "baloney sandwich with a big slice of tomato" and a bottle of pop. Yesterday there wasn't much time to waste, so she just bagged up a few tomatoes and cucumbers for him to take home.
If you never get to visit Lucas' Grocery you will have missed out on a vanishing slice of Americana (West Virginia style).
I didn't make any photos inside the store because it's kind of dark in there, but you can get an idea of the contents by scanning the items on display on the front porch. On the porch, alone, one may peruse a variety of merchandise. These items are all for sale, at reasonable prices, (according to Tiny and Peep). Are you in the market for a propane tank or television? He's got 'em. How about a couple of red chairs or a set of four new truck tires? Yep, he's got 'em. Furthermore, on the porch you may pick up some lumber, a wash tub, breakfast cereal, moon pies (of course!), or a loaf of bread. Looking for some other type of merchandise? Well to the right side there is plenty various types of seed (in season), dog food, various farm implements, a roll of chicken wire, and a bale of straw. You can also pick up a copy of the "Lincoln Journal" newspaper. If you think the porch display is something, just step inside this emporium for an absolute plethora of groceries and stuff.
A guy named Mark, who is Peep's son, lives with 84 year old Tiny and kind of looks out for him and the store. I remarked to him that a fellow could just about find anything he might be looking for in this place. "Yep" he deadpanned, "We've got about anything you need. We may not have twelve different brands of everything, but we've got some stuff." He's right about that. There are the usual staples of any grocery store - bread, milk and other dairy products, soft drinks, canned goods, cleaning supplies, and a meat counter. If the law of supply and demand holds true, judging from the inventory levels, the patrons of Lincoln County seem to be quite fond of coffee, vienna sausages, coke products, and moon pies. And there's candy. All kinds and lots of it.
But groceries are only part of the story at Tiny's store. Under the same roof there is a good supply of shoes, axes, hoes, shovels, and picks. There are rat traps, light bulbs, baling wire, nails, screws, plumbing supplies, shoe laces, buckets, fuses, horse shoes, and big kosher dill pickles. You can also find mower blades, bicycle tires and inner tubes of all sizes. Need a saw? There are several types from which to choose. A range of tobacco products from cigarettes to chewing tobacco are also plentiful. Shotgun shells are available as well.
The back door stands open (to provide a little more light and ventilation in the building). The boys were interested in the chickens and cats running free back there, and a big dog chained up to a tree near Tiny's mobile home. Will was also intrigued by the homemade sign on the front porch which, no doubt, is intended to discourage would be burglars. The sign reads, "The man who sleeps in the back of this store has a gun". In the back aisle of the store, a roll away bed bears witness to the fact that would be nocturnal intruders should probably heed the warning of the sign.
Tiny is a friendly sort of guy, with a shock of long white hair. He walks with two canes, but according to Mark, he "doesn't get around much anymore". He's also a bit of a philosopher. He'll be quick to tell you, "If you're going to do anything - do it before you are 84!" Makes sense to me.
There is another grocery store in Ranger, barely 1/4 mile down the road. It's a "Pic Pac" or "Save-A-Lot" or some such chain. It has a big parking lot and is brightly lighted inside. It's clean and has wide aisles and a large selection of grocery items. But there are some things that you can get at Tiny's that you just can't get at the big store. Truck tires and wash tubs are a couple of them. Another is a line of credit until your "check comes in at the first of the month".
Some might say that Lucas' Grocery is one of the last of a vanishing breed. I contend that Tiny Lucas is a visionary and a pioneer in merchandising. After all, have you ever been in a WalMart Supercenter? Where do you think they got the idea?