Julie Park, 59, toys with the oversized cigarette lighters, multi-flavored Mentos, and M&Ms, while Arthur Earley, 25, looks out from under the wide brim of a baseball cap, shifting from foot to foot in front of the wall of Marlboros, Virginia Slims, Pall Malls and a rainbow of other cigarette packs. They make an unusual duo: Park, anxiously meticulous, who always seems to be on her hands and knees fixing the rows of candy, and Earley, who sports earrings and talks to the kids in faint pidgin, hanging out comfortably behind the glass counter. The two interrupt each other’s sentences to describe what the other really means, often differing on everything from the number of daily customers to the clientele.
Neither has worked the small convenience shop for much more than a few months, but since January, the store has seen anywhere from 40 to 100 customers a day, mostly students looking for after-school snacks and neighborhood mothers with babies who come for a quick can of food or bottle of shampoo. People drift in, find what they need, and then leave.
“It’s not too good, not too bad,” says Park. “What do you expect? It’s a small store.”
“I think the recession has affected everyone,” says Earley, chiming in. “What I want to know is when I’ll get my tax returns. I’m pissed.”