Monday, August 10, 2009

Party Store Linguistics


I had a confusing conversation with a Californian yesterday in which I repeatedly used the term "party store" while discussing my recent visit to Flint. I was trying to describe the huge role party stores played for Flint residents thirsty for beer and wine, especially teenagers. He thought Flintoids had an unhealthy attachment to wrapping paper.

So how far does the party store label extend outside of Flint? Something tells me they don't use the term in Grand Rapids. I'm hoping some misguided grad student in linguistics wrote a dissertation on this, but I'd settle for any info from readers.

Here's an earlier discussion from the comment section of a post on Civic Park that touches on party stores:

Anonymous said...Does anyone recall the party store about one block N/E of Dayton and Brownell? It was a real whole in the wall. They had multiple dobermans in the back to keep the riff-raff out. I can't believe I had the guts to go in there as a little girl. I don't think I would have the courage to go now.

Kathy Wallace
2310 BassettDelete

geewhy said...I vaguely remember this place. Was it sort of nestled in with all the houses? For some reason I never ventured in that direction, although we used to ride our bikes to the Fair store and that mall on Clio Road for a real adventure.Delete

Smurfs Inc. said...The party store on Dartmouth and Kellar? It was still open 10 years ago and if I recall correctly had the best/worst mural of Malcolm X, MLK, and Mike Tyson on the Seneca side!?! Classic party store art only topped by the black Bart Simpson proclaiming "We Accept Food Stamps Dude" above the door of the old Lapeer Rd. Market. I've always been a fan of side street party stores. Cain's Party Store on Ohio, Avenue A Market, Brown Street Market, the aforementioned Dartmouth Market, the crazy old lawn care/beer store on Cornelia, and a particularly seedy one on York and North were personal favorites. At one time during the mid 90s the intersection of Chevrolet and Welch featured 3 party stores. Mounir's Drive-Thru and TWO in the Baskin-Robbins plaza across the street... man I loved those store fronts.

Anonymous said...First of all, how does one put Mike Tyson in the same company as Malcolm X and MLK? Okay, my mistake...the store was 1 block north west of the Brownell/Dayton corner. Yes, it was sort of strangely located in a residential area. I wonder if Matt Groening approved the rights to use Bart in such a message. It wasn't until I moved to Chicago that I learned that the "party store" was not ubiquitous to every city (another correlation to Flint's downfall could easily be tied to their existence). My husband (from Oak Park, a dry village) is fascinated by the concept. When I told him about the drive through liquor store on Clio road (you know, the big yellow A-frame), he was blown that's a party store. Kathy Wallace

oakparkmark said...Kathy -- tell your hubby that Oak Park has joined the ranks of civilized towns like Flint where you can get a gallon milk and beer at the same place. I moved to Oak Park from Flint 20 years ago, and was appalled at the lack of alcohol availability. Now, beer and wine are available in grocery stores. But the concept of a party store isn't likely to catch on. People here don't "party." They work and then anesthetize themselves.

redgirl said...There has also been a party store on the NE corner of Fleming & Pasadena for years, across from what was a check-cashing & copy "center" on the NW corner there, next to which there was a Zenith shop on Pasadena. Even in the 70's the party shops there seemed fairly off limits to us. We went to Dave's Market and Kilbourn's Drugstore on the corner of Fleming and Caniff instead. Incidentally, there was a white house on the corner across from Dave's market that was reportedly a speakeasy during Prohibition. I was also completely unaware that the concept of "party store" was so unusual until I drove my Barcelona-born fiance to one. He thought it would be a place for wrapping paper and bows and that it would be filled with balloons and confetti. This particular one was in the Lapeer area and sold fishing tackle, as well, which led to further confusion. Pau's rather thick accent seemed to throw the friendly clerk, who then proceeded to up the vocal volume and talk more slowly while exaggerating the pointing just a bit, all in order to ensure we understood his directions :)


  1. Ye Olde Wurstsyde WarlordAugust 10, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    They most assuredly call 'em party stores in Big GR. Rau's Party Store on S. Division was one of the greatest malt liquor dispensaries ever. I've seen "party store" used in northern Ohio and the Indiana part of Michiana but not much farther. Dunno if "party stores" extend into the UP. As you might expect there is an actual "party shoppe" in Ann Arbor.

  2. Some other party store verbiage:

    out the door = price of beer plus tax and deposit

    jumbo = 40 ounce bottle

    double deuce = 22 ounce bottle

    half rack = 12 pack of beer

    ...and would you mind bagging it in a Hamady Sack?

  3. I concur with Y.O.W.W. - they are party stores here too. In fact, I had this same discussion with a visitor from Maryland recently. She couldn't figure out why there were so many locations to buy balloons and party supplies here....

  4. Grew up downriver, where there is a "Party store" on every corner.

  5. yup. I've gotten into the "party store" coversation too in CA.
    All I said was, "I'm going to get a pop at the party store." Isn't that perfectly clear?

  6. In the market research part of the consumer packaged goods industry, c-store is the proper term. When I first started, I was thinking, what the hell is a c-store? Oh, they mean party store. I refuse to use c-store as a sub for party store.

  7. brand new term to me, from the West Coast, when i married a guy from Flint (grew up close to Chevrolet and Welch, on Proctor St....) Party stores to me meant balloons and ribbons obviously. I thought it was just such a happy town! Till i went there....

  8. Out in NYC, they're called bodegas.

  9. As a 30+ year resident of marquette County, I can confirm that when a yooper wants beer dey go party store eh.

  10. Living in Indianapolis, I haven't visited a party store since leaving Flint. I also haven't been served a coney by a gum chewing waitress sporting a hair-net since leaving town.
    I believe the party store that started this thread was probably Jerry Raymonds place on Dartmouth at Brownell (next to the barber shop). I think it was called Raymonds (something).

  11. I'm wondering if the "party store" handle came into being around the same time "party" (or par-tay) became commonly used as a verb as in "let's party" or "partying too much"? To me, "party" as a verb (or a store) conjures up the notion of indulgence in intoxicating beverages or other substances, not cake and balloons.

  12. i never realized that others would think a party store was for decorations and such, a flint idiom that i didn't recognize.

    in our neighborhood we had brown street market which was a real hole with slanted wood floors and mdse. crammed in every corner.

    we also had 'mary's sunshine dairy' which was a drive thru party store with service to your car.

    then in the 70's at corunna and ballenger they built a stop-n-go, which after a couple of hold ups gained the name stop-n-rob which my mom still uses to refer to any party store.

  13. The south end (Fenton Rd) Sal's party store was my place for loading up on candy and pop when I was playing around the "Cody Bowl" across the street...then, it was called Bond and Garrets. Later, when it was called, Sal and Terrys I loaded up on beer and other serious liquids. jbing50... how about Cal's party store and for ribbons and balloons Party World in Harvey.

  14. I yearn for a "Sunshine Dairy" where I live. How often I just need milk and eggs and don't want to drag the kids to the store. A smart mom must have come up with that idea.

  15. Hey Anon, Cal's is the place for Southside Marquette. My personal favorite is "the Spot" on the Eastside. It's one of the last of the small corner stores, nicely tucked into a residential neighborhood. There was a little store like that in Flint near Kentucky and Franklin where I lived for a bit in my college days. I don't remember the name of it. Anybody?

    (Party World in Harvey - RIP)

  16. Heddy's Market was at the corner of Nebraska and Franklin.

  17. I drove by Heddy's in June. Still open, I think. Last time I was there was with Eric Curran, who lived nearby, in about 1979.

  18. Man, I haven't thought of those Mary's Sunshine Dairies in years. I could always get my dad to pull into one, but my mom would only rarely stop because she said they were more expensive than going to Hamady's, A&P or Kroger and other pre-Meijer places. I remember them being all over the place, but I at the moment am picturing one across from St. Luke's & Wayside Inn on Pasadena, somewhere East of Lawndale.

  19. jbing50- When I was a kid playing little league at Kearsley one. We would head for Heddy's mkt on the corner of Nebraska and Franklin to slake our thirst. This was in the fifties and Ed Krupa was the directer there. That store was the only watering hole at that time. Ya, Party World did fold some years ago. I segued for comparison. unclebuck.

  20. Can't remember the name of the tiny party store on Fleming near Pasadena but us tough guys from St.Lukes elementary in the mid 60's would frequent the store for goodies and to stare Jerry the owners wife!!She was a beautiful blond and very attentive to our sweet tooth.Any way we left St Lukes to attend ST Mikes HS, never going back to the store but about 5yrs later some guys went in to rob the place- shut Jerry the owner in the walkin cooler for their getaway,big mistake Jerry kept a loaded rifle in there came out and shot and killed 2 men.This would have taken place approx 1971.Any one remember Jerry's wife's name?

  21. anybody got a picture of Heddy's Market on Franklin back in the day. definitely qualified as a party store


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