You have to like a development called Ruthfred Acres. Builder Fred Brown and his wife Ruth (thus the name) built it in the 1940s. It happens to be home to western Pennsylvania’s first strip mall, called Ruthfred Acres Shopping Center.
This shopping center is tiny. But it contains—as I suspect it always has contained—useful abundance. Ruthfred Food Market, ACE Miller Hardware, Supreme Cleaners, the Family Deli, Valentine’s Full-Service Salon, O’Brien’s Pharmacy. You can visit a primary care doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, even a seamstress. Adjacent is Young’s Auto Service. Across the street is Valero gas. Also across the street is Ferruzza Hair Centre, where a billboard says, “Welcome Back, Ron Baker, Master Barber.”
Ruthfred Lutheran Church is there, too.
Yesterday I stopped at Ruthfred Food Market, which was busy. In search of hand sanitizer and other miscellaneous items, I saw unexpected things: shoe laces and shoe polish, RIT dye forcloth, a candy thermometer, canning equipment. Toy handcuffs. A yoyo.
Judging from the people waiting six deep, the market has an excellent deli. But I went next door to the Family Deli to get “Our own baked ham.” People were waiting there, too.
The small satisfaction I feel when indulging in the great American consumer pastime—pretending that I save money by buying sale merchandise I don’t need—goes up in smoke compared with the satisfaction of buying useful stuff at Ruthfred Acres Shopping Center. I’ll be back.