Tomorrow is the last day of The General Store in Lakeland. Terisa Glover, above, and her little dog, Sparky, have run The General Store for the past six plus years. During that time The General Store became the heart of Downtown Lakeland as everyone passed through the store doors from little children, politicians, celebrities and all kinds of people in all shapes and sizes. There isn’t anyone in Downtown Lakeland that doesn’t know Terisa and Sparky. The loss of the store is a big one.

It’s a big one for Swampy. It was Terisa and The General Store that got the first of the Swampy’s Florida coloring/guide books off the ground two and a half years ago. Terisa has been a huge supporter of the cause and is the creator of the current Swampy doll she’s holding in the photo below.  Because of Terisa’s help and encouragement there are now twelve Swampy books, 35 Swampy prints and 2 Sawmpy DVDs. I could never thank Terisa enough for her help!

The General Store itself was themed by Terisa to be a look back over the shoulder at a time when you could sit out front and talk to neighbors or playing checkers. Go through a screen door and get ice cream and a Nehi, find someone behind the counter that really cared about the community and not just biding time for the next big offer. These elements are rare to find anywhere in our state right now.2013-0913-GoodbyeGeneralStore-2

One of my fondest memories of the store – and I saw it more than once – were small children clutching their dollar bill in their little hands and toddling their way to candy bins just their height. They’d chose a Bit-o-Honey or a Moon Pie and then turn to make their way to the counter to make their purchase. Terisa would take their money, give them change and make sure they saw Sparky if they asked. It just warms the heart to see such interaction.

Not that long ago you could find stores like The General Store all over Florida. But young people are being nurtured to believe all should be gotten in, what is known as, a big box store like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and the like. Small shops like this are looked at more as a novelty or an oddity. What is odd is that personable The General Store is seen as being “old School” and the dispassionate Wal-Mart as being the neighborhood store.

There is a new crop of community places that is more popular than ever and that is the bar. This includes the many restaurants, coffee shops and other locations that have been hastily adding alcohol to their establishment. The booze addition is usually a prelude to tossing tables and chairs into the sidewalk (a great way to advertise your wares). The alcohol scene is spreading all over Florida. I’m seeing such expansions at 5 Points in Jacksonville to Atlantic Boulevard in Delray Beach to the Historic Square in Downtown Ocala to Adams Street in Tallahassee to Central Boulevard in St. Petersburg to the Miracle Strip Parkway in Fort Walton Beach and it goes on and on. Downtown Lakeland is included in the list. Many locations there have added alcohol in the past two years. Our state has never seen this kind of explosion of the bar scene ever. Even in the 1800s it was confined and controlled in a handful of spots statewide.

Yep, this all makes Swampy’s Florida very sad and discouraged. Apparently to be socially active getting inoculated with some substance is thought to be needed more and more these days. Too bad more folks can’t seem to have the wherewithal to do this on a more sober level.

This is the first editorial commentary of such length put on this site since it started over three years ago, but this is one of the troubles I notice as I travel our state.

Sawmpy’s Florida is sad to see The General Store close but something being whispered in the swamp is that Terisa and Sparky are returning – and very soon – to Downtown Lakeland. It’s a new chapter and I can only hope and pray more support the newest venture.