South Oakville is a beautiful place. But the neighbourhood wouldn’t be the nearly as beautiful without Bong’s Variety.
The corner store is surrounded on every side by loveliness. Some of the homes there are over a hundred years old and have been lovingly restored, with painted trim and huge front porches. Others are tidy new row houses with clipped hedges and front doors painted in bold colours. And, as you would expect in such an established neighbourhood, there are enormous trees whose green canopy adds a sense of comfort and warmth.
Still, it is the huge sidewalk display of plants and flowers that draws my eye every time I drive by. Yesterday I marveled at the potted mums in all kinds of fall shades lined up along the road. A few months ago it was row after row of pansies, planted up with tall pussy willow branches that looked almost like miniature obelisks. There were bright red geraniums in summer, and last winter there were rows of small evergreens. No matter what the season, the owner creates a stunning display, a riot of colour outside his small store.
The thing is, we don’t usually notice a convenience store. We hurry in to buy a loaf of bread on the way home from work. Or the kids ride their bikes there on a hot day to buy a popsicle, too intent on the heat to notice much else. And even if we notice them, we don’t exactly have grand expectations for their storefront. I can’t recall ever seeing a Mac’s Milk with pretty window dressing or a 7-11 with flowery signs enticing customers to come in and browse. Corner stores are small, practical places. Not hubs for artwork and creativity.
Except for this one. Every single time I drive by I notice it. I marvel at the stunning displays. I think about the changing seasons. I appreciate the effort someone makes not just to sell stuff, but to share beauty with the neighbourhood. I’ve never seen that stretch of road look barren, disheveled or even wilted. It’s amazing.
I realized today that I’ve never actually stopped and gone into the store. Maybe I’ve been in too much of a rush (and I really do hate the thought of finding somewhere to park on that busy street). I am beginning to think that I really should go in, though. My business will help make sure that they are successful enough to stay right there on that corner, which would be great. Because they make Oakville that much more beautiful, not just for me but for every single person who drives by, every single day. And that is pretty fantastic.