SENTINEL, Okla. (KFOR) – A picture of Sentinel, Oklahoma in the early 1900s shows one street- a dot on the vast southern plains- and at the center of that dot, a grocery store, of course.
“Long before me,” says current owner, Ronny Ridling. “It’s changed hands several times.”
He grew up on the food Gerald Bowen sold in his ‘Fine Foods’ store still situated on the corner of 3rd and Main, and still selling the groceries that nourish this small town.
“I think it’s very important to our community,” he states. “We’re small and this is just another business that stays in town.”
It’s been 8 years since he found out Mr. Bowen was about to close for good.
As an officer of the All America Bank down the street, Ronny probably knew it wasn’t a fantastic investment financially, but a sound one as far as the future of his home town.
“About 2012, me and my wife purchased it,” he recalls, “to try to keep the business here.”
From one kind of green to another, Ridling and family run the old Gerald’s, the produce section, the meat counter, and the hardware.
The challenge lately has been staying ahead of food shortages caused by the pandemic.
While straightening shelves he says, “Our suppliers have done a pretty good job of keeping us in whatever they can.”
But local deliveries are up.
So is local traffic.
“They’ll call in and our girls will deliver them,” he says.
Ridling is determined to keep one of the last of the corner grocery stores open.
“They’d have to drive to Cordell, Hobart, or even Elk City if we weren’t here.”
To know just about everyone who walks through the front door, whether it’s for ice cream or Karo Syrup, is part of what makes these small town businesses special.
Ridling says, “About anybody who walks through that door, you’re going to know who they are.”
That customers might have to drive another 30 miles to get good food helps keep this corner alive.