Think about the town where you currently live: its local customs, traditions, and hangouts, its slang. What would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?
The first thing that comes to mind is our local farmer’s market. Open Thursday through Sunday, it is a local attraction that has a loyal following from towns many miles around. In Quakertown, we just call it the QMart. The cute little guy you see in the picture is the logo for this massive, sprawling complex of buildings. You can buy anything there, from groceries to plants to pets to that iconic pictures of dogs sitting around a table playing poker. And anything Elvis. When the weather is appropriate, there is a flea market outdoors where people set up tables to sell their crafts or their collection of stuff they’ve gleaned from other people’s garage sales.
During the day on Thursday through Saturday, you will find lots of housewives stocking up on the local produce. Best produce prices around, and the seasonal fruits and veggies are abundant. There are also shops that are famous for a variety of foods including meat, deli products, and wonderful sticky buns.
There are restaurants where you can buy typical Pennsylvania Dutch fare, or gyros, or pizza, or soup and a salad, or hot pretzels studded with kosher salt that taste heavenly with just a bit of mustard. There are stores specializing in candy, jewelry, model cars that race on a track; you can buy a puppy or boa constrictor, if that’s your inclination. Computer shops, tea and coffee stalls, masses and masses of tee shirts, shoes, carpets, sewing machines and vacuums. You can get your shoes repaired there, and you can get everything you need for your Thanksgiving dinner.
A lot of the things available there are just tacky. Toys of cheap plastic that will break in ten minutes, watches of questionable origin, and hosts of caps and sweatshirts at rock bottom prices.
But you can also buy good quality carpets and home furnishings. There is a shop that sells CD’s, and there are bins of old LP albums as well. I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you could find a record player for those albums.
There is a grocery warehouse outlet that is open all week. The bargains are terrific if you’re patient and willing to dig through a lot of stuff you don’t want.
There used to be a shop there that my husband misses terribly. Lou’s was his favorite place. Bins of nuts, bolts, screws, washers, nails–he could buy nails by the pound, instead of in pre-packaged boxes. Tools you’ve never heard of, all sorts of things a mechanic/handyman would love. He could browse through that store endlessly while I shopped for our weekly produce. Now, since he’s retired, he’s taken over the produce shopping for me and Lou’s no longer exists, so it doesn’t take him long at all to get in and out.
You will find every kind of shopkeeper at the QMart, from a tattooed and pierced, pink-haired, uniquely dressed young woman to the old-order Mennonites who run one of the meat shops. Most of the stores are family-owned, and some of them have businesses elsewhere that operate all week.
It’s a hard place to describe. You just have to experience it.