The Rolling Store: The Old Fashioned Peddler

Reader Contribution by Arkansas Girl
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I read an article in a magazine about entrepreneurs who sell their products or services by using catering trucks or mobile businesses – stores on wheels. This type of business is referred to as a new venture. Perhaps the person who penned that article thinks this is a new twist on selling. When I thought about it for a while, I realized that as the old saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” That’s when it dawned on me about what the old-timers called the “Rolling Store.”

I have no idea when “rolling stores” came into existence, but I can imagine that as far back as humans could “cart” something around to sell, there have been mobile stores, even before the wheels came along.

The rolling store that came to our neck of the woods was actually an old pickup truck with a camper-type enclosure on the back and a fold-down tailgate. This man’s truck was more than a few years old and looked like it was on “its last leg,” but apparently his four wheels took him where he needed to go.

The “Rolling Store” went to rural areas where housewives couldn’t (and didn’t) go into town much. However, when I was a child, women did travel a bit more than their mothers and grandmothers did. They did go to town, but it was a rare trip and almost always a special treat. So, the mobile store driver went to every house where a road or a trail led him. This was obviously his version of “taking the store to the customer.” And from what I saw, he did a good job of finding every nook and cranny where his truck would fit.

You’ve probably seen some of those old TV shows of the country peddler. He had pots and pans and shoes and some of everything else (that he thought country folks needed or wanted) lodged on top of and hanging all off the sides of his truck.

Now, I can’t tell you exactly what was in our mobile store, but I know there was candy, and that was all I cared about.

“Mr. Rolling Store” man came around every so often – how often, I can’t tell you. He didn’t have a definite schedule. He would just pop up out of the blue. When we spotted him, we’d start hollering and made a beeline into the house to get Mother. She would scurry around the house gathering money to buy something from him.

When salesmen came around, housewives felt obligated to buy something from them. Not so much that they needed anything, but it was the fact that the salesman brought his wares to their doorsteps. Because this man did that for a living, women supported him with their hard-earned, hard-to-come-by, “depression-style” money.

Because their husbands worked hard for their money (and the salesman was working hard for his), women sympathized with him and kept his business alive. Country housewives needed him as much as he needed them. It was a joint venture, and it worked very well.

I was always curious as to who “Mr. Rolling Store” man was and where he came from. I never heard anyone speak of him, so I assume he wasn’t from our “corner of the globe.” He was an older, overall wearing gentleman, and, when he came rolling up, that was the highlight of my day – and especially if Mother had enough money for some suckers … I mean the sweet kind on the stick that children love to eat.


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