Small Town Shopping

Preparing for Homecoming has really brought to light the issue of what is impossible to find in this town. My staff and I have agreed to participate in the Deck the Halls competition where offices compete for the most spirited decorations. I’ve simultaneously discovered how fiercely competitive my students are. When a random person falls into one of our intense conversations about streamers, I usually try to loop them in with an explanation, “We’re participating in the Deck the Halls competition…..” This is consistently punctuated by, “We’re going to WIN” by any one of my students in the room at the time. Look out!

School spirit aside, and not revealing any of our epic decoration plans, I have to say .. this town is a pain in the ass when it comes to shopping. As a rule, I hate to shop. I have to be in the right mood, on the right day, with all the stars aligned in order to come up with a destination that involves spending money. Well, god help me if I ever make that decision in Charleston, because it will involve a long drive and more money than I intended.

I make jokes about heading out to “civilization” and finding some “humanity,” but I’m not kidding. Here in Charleston we have a Walmart, and that’s it. That’s not an exaggeration. Sure, you can go to the Dollar Store, or the County Market. I have not set foot in Rural King and don’t plan to (I don’t need live chickens). When I first moved out here I’d be on the phone with my mom talking about what I needed for the apartment, and she’d suggest “Bed Bath and Beyond?” An hour away. “Target?” An hour away. “Kohls?” 45 minutes or an hour away.

Pioneer Square mileage sign

photo courtesy of

Now that I’m trying to shop for decorations, I realize that we’re going to have to get pretty damn crafty because I’m simply not making a 2 hour round trip to get to a Michaels, or a party goods store. Growing up in suburban Pennsylvania, I was so close to everything. We still had to drive, but you could get what you needed within 15 to 20 minutes from the house. Don’t even get me started on proximity to what I needed while living in Spain. Even working against siesta and Sundays, I was still able to get there and back – without a car.

Here, I find myself planning a day in Champaign (100 mile r/t) or a long weekend with Holly in Springfield (200 mile r/t) so I can a) get my hair cut, b) dine out, c) visit a museum, d) hit up a bookstore, e) buy craft supplies, f) buy clothing, g) soak up some humanity. This is not only a time commitment, but a drain on the wallet. Figure in the time it takes to get there and back, and then the gas money .. and that’s my monthly excursion out of town.

Let’s not overlook Mattoon, which holds the wonders of Home Depot, Staples, three more dollar stores, Wendy’s, a used bookstore, Big Lots and the original Burger King (really). It’s a mere 10 miles from here, and also has another Walmart if I’m feeling adventurous. Sometimes I head over to Tuscola (25 minutes out) for a trip to the outlets, or swing by the Amish (20 minutes out) for some homemade cinnamon buns and a change of scenery. Maybe this is why I no longer think anything of driving 3 hours to get to Chicago?

If you need us, the students and I will be in the office making paper chains all week… the Dollar Tree had a sale on construction paper.


One thought on “Small Town Shopping

  1. Haha, welcome to small-town-midwestern life. I feel ya. My town had a Target, but it closed down when I was in middle school, ruining so many lives. Wal-Mart was the next option. We do have a Kroger, however …


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