For our final Thursday video segment, we interviewed Visitacion Valley resident Selina Low to discuss her favorite places in the neighborhood. Selina was raised in Visitacion Valley, and is now a licensed clinical social worker who provides therapy and assessments for children and youth.
In the video, Selina talks briefly about growing up in and around her parent’s neighborhood grocery store, Sunlight Grocery. As a companion to the video, she wrote a short reflection called “Remembering Sunlight Grocery,” which details some her fondest memories of the store (no longer in operation). Read Selina’s piece below.
As I reflect on growing up in Visitacion Valley, I know my story would be incomplete, without mentioning our little corner grocery store. My parents owned and operated Sunlight Grocery for over twenty years in the 70s through about the mid 90s. It’s no longer there on Visitacion Ave., but the fond memories are in my heart and mind.
I can still remember the brown tile floor and the white counter that held the two large calculators. I can picture the built in shelves that went all around the perimeter of the store and, the freezers and other shelves. We sold food from canned soups and spaghetti to boxes of Cream of Wheat and cereal to frozen TV dinners and pot-pies. We sold bread, rice, lunchmeat, milk, juice and soda, baby food, cookies, cupcakes, ice-cream, fruit and vegetables, beer, wine and more.
Selina in her family’s store dressed up for Halloween, c.1987. Courtesy of Selina Low.
We sold cold cuts like salami, American and Swiss cheese, ham, bologna and liverwurst. I remember my mother making sandwiches for me to take to school–ham and liverwurst in a small paper bag packed neatly with a napkin and small carton of orange drink. I remember her cutting the cheese very thin some times and we would call it “paper cheese.” I remember being cautioned not to take too many snacks!
I can picture many things we sold and remember being told by customers that we had the coldest drinks in town. I remember kids buying pickles to go with peppermint sticks. I remember the store being a place where people chatted as they made their purchases. I can recall as a youth, when a friend would come to the store and when he was ready to leave, I would come out from the behind the counter and we would race up the street to see who would win.
Selina, aged 7 or 8, with her dogs behind the family store. Courtesy of Selina Low.
I remember neighbors coming to buy things, but it was the conversation even if brief, that was so community. My parents perfected their English though it wasn’t their first language.
Some times it was rough, because my parents worked long hours and some times in challenging conditions, to care for their children. But we also worked together as a family. And I recall my parents trying to help others, by offering tabs to some customers they knew well. When I think of my parents’ hard work and being good people who wanted to help others, I am proud of them and my family and am grateful for what they taught me.
When I see someone from the neighborhood that knew me when we operated Sunlight Grocery, I am some times referred to as “the little girl from the store.”