Counter Culture (mom & pop shops and the brands they carried)

Rich Saal is a commercial and editorial portrait photographer based in central Illinois (full website here). His work to present day captures humanity richly. Between 1979 and 1983, Rich took stark, subtlety revealing shots of mom & pop shops. These black & whites seem to represent an even earlier era. As we know, large chains sunk many mom & pops over the years so this is a treasure trove.

Enjoy them and hang in for a recent update collection of what has since happened to these stores. Rich provides the original black and white and a comparative colour shot taken in the original location.

What makes this collection even more valuable is the capture of brands. Many have survived to this day, albeit with some logo and packaging progressions. The above photo displays 2-litre bottles of pop that look fairly contemporary though the bottles themselves are history. Pixy Stix, Planters Peanuts, and Jack Daniels are quite recognizable. It must be summer given the screen patches readily available to help keep bugs out.

All forms of tobacco are captured here. Many of the brands have been relegated to history. Candy bars and gum have not changed much. Back then, I remember those plastic, disposable Bic lighters as being one of the more ubiquitous items around (imagine the mountainous mounds in landfill).

These sparse shelves are full of history. I once worked on the McCormack account so appreciate the old logo of the spice purveyor. Kool-Aid, Gatorade and Jell-O are instantly recognizable (it helped to have a hyphen in your name). That version of the Pepsi logo will always be the one I associate with the brand. Bic appears again alongside Gillette. Here are more shots from the original collection:

Thirty-five years after the first collection, Saal returned to the original locales and shot from the same spot (link to updated collection). The accompanying write ups are as special as the “then and now” photography. Rich talks of the human subjects, the stores and what has transpired over time. It also provides an analysis, “Who killed the mom-and-pop?” Below are three teaser shots but I recommend clicking on the link and drinking it all in.

Everett Vinson personalized his store in Bloomfield by placing family pictures on the shelves. They included two framed photos of his sons, Gary and Bobby, which he had made in 1953 and hung high on the wall. Everett and his wife, Halloween, ran the business for 45 years; it closed in 1990. Gary was photographed on the site of the old store holding the portrait of himself as a 7-year-old.
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