I can remember making the trip to Mulder’s Red Bell Market with my brother - a note from my mom authorizing us to buy her cigarettes tucked into my shirt pocket. It was just the times – you could walk a mile or so without fear of molestation or drive-bys and the store would sell cigs to you if you had a note. The only challenge was dodging the cars while crossing North Avenue – if you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball.
Mulder’s was a small family operation, not like the huge A&P on Burleigh. Everything including the aisles and the shopping carts were scaled down. The A&P might have had better prices and more selection, but it was a lot farther away. We didn’t know it, but Mulder’s was one of the rapidly vanishing neighborhood grocery stores.
My brother and I were attracted by the nickel candy and the incentive of six boxes of Milkduds for a quarter. They had quarts of Galaxy grape soda for eighty cents, a dime coke machine out front and a pay phone with phone numbers scrawled on the brick wall next to the phone. We spent a lot of time hanging around the store, stopping in after school to ruin our appetite before dinner.
The store was small, dimly lit, and smelled of spices. The floors creaked as we’d make our way back to Mr. Mulder’s meat counter. He did his own butchering - the hamburger was a fresh red braid of meat pouring from the grinder into cardboard container, then wrapped smartly in white paper. No carbon monoxide treated crap at this store.
Those days are gone, Red Bell markets are just a faded memory as are most of your small ma-pa kind of groceries. That store was a big part of our neighborhood as well as our childhood and though the market is long Mulder’s lives on in my heart.