My mother and father-in-law have owned a cosmetics studio and clothing boutique in downtown Tuna for the past 30 years. In addition to selling makeup and outfitting the local church ladies, they have provided a number of other services to the locals.
Up until a few years ago, an older lady named Leona would come in every other week or so with her checkbook and hand it over to George. Leona couldn’t read or write a lick so she brought her checkbook in and George would balance her statement and tell her how much money she had and write out whatever checks needed to be written.
Another lady came in to the store three times a week for seven years. She never bought anything, but she needed some place to be for the three hours her husband took dialysis. She drove in from some outlying area and after she dropped her husband off at the hospital, she would stop in at the store and hang out. George and Cleo offered her a comfortable chair, a place to put her feet up, something to drink, some fudge if George had made some that week, but mostly they offered her some place to be.
Occasionally you’d get a crazy older lady who would come out of the dressing room asking for a bigger size wearing nothing but her bra and a pair of stretch pants. George would duck quietly out the front door because he is a gentleman.
I’ve been thinking about Memaw’s store a lot lately and the cast of characters that have come in and out of there over the years. Memaw is in her mid-80s and still works that store most days. I’ve been after her to retire. Although I don’t know what could possibly fill the void that she would leave behind on Main Street.
The following post was published in November of 2006
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Therapy With A Side Of Cold Cream
My mother-in-law, Cleo, has owned a cosmetics and clothing business on Main Street in downtown Tuna for more than 25 years. She has enjoyed a fair measure of success for a variety of reasons.
One, she can flat out sell. That woman could sell the devil a Bible and then he would order a few more for gifts. Two, Papa George stands squarely behind her, encouraging her and supporting her every step of the way. Three, she understands that she is not selling clothes and cosmetics, but hope and dreams. And four, the good people of Tuna need some place where they can get therapy and a makeover at the same time.
A bell tied to the front door, clinkles and clankles, announcing the arrival of each customer. She greets them by name. “Helloooow there! Come in!” she calls from behind the counter looking over the top of her rhinestone bifocals. She asks about their children, their grandchildren. She knows them.
Usually the first customer of the day is some old farmer wearing bib overalls. That might seem odd if you were at the mall, but no one in downtown Tuna blinks an eye to see a farmer in a boutique. His wife has sent him in with an empty powder compact that he pulls out of the pocket on the front of his overalls. Cleo knows exactly what to replace it with without even looking at it. His wife has bought the same product in the same shade for the last 25 years.
He pulls up a stool at the makeover counter to rest and chat. He leans on his cane and Cleo leans on the counter to hear the latest. His wife has cancer, but she is hanging in there he says. Cleo listens and offers him a piece of homemade fudge. There’s nothing that George’s fudge won’t make better. Cleo rings up the makeup and walks him to the door. “You hang in there now. We’re a’prayin’ for you,” she says as he makes his way out the door.
Ever so often, some young gal will come in with her head hanging low. She’ll pull up a stool at the cosmetics counter and pour out her woes all over the eye shadow counter. Like a good bartender, Cleo listens. Her husband has left her. He took the dog. Cleo gives her a piece of homemade fudge and pats her arm.
Fifteen minutes later, her woes have been replaced with a new face and a new blouse. When you’re living your life out in a country and western song, a bag of cosmetics and a new blouse will fix most all that ails you. She hugs Cleo as she leaves the store. “Keep your chin up gal!” Cleo calls to her. She has made a customer and she has made a friend.
You just can’t get that at the mall.
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The entire Tuna series can be found at the Best of Antique Mommy