Clare County Review & Marion Press

Postcard from the Pines: Shopping Local

Bernies NW Main and Mill Corner 1956

I stopped by Flemming’s Clothing on Marion’s Main Street before Christmas. There were a couple items on my list that I knew I would find there. Indeed I did, and so much more. I always leave Flemming’s with a smile on my face and a good feeling in my soul. A visit there is a good experience. It seems to me that it has always been so. The older I get, the more I find a visit to Flemming’s a tremendously comforting thing to do. You are greeted with a friendly hello by folks you know and have likely known your entire life.
My earliest visits to Flemming’s have likely changed much from the last. Except my mom was not there to pay. From the moment you walked through the door, the feast for the senses began. There was a riot of colors and textures and the scent of new clothing of all kinds; the sizing of cotton and denium, the starch of dress shirts and somehow a baby smell to baby clothes. And there was the hum of a fan or two. And you never knew what was new or who else might be shopping.
I got new summer sandals from Flemming’s, then known as Rosemary’s, when I was three of four. They were Buster Brown’s, displayed in the window and a wonderful dark red. I loved those shoes and remember them vividly. Actually, I have been very fond of many pairs of shoes from Flemming’s through the years.
I still feel that little jolt of anticipation every time I enter the door of Flemming’s Clothing. The genuine friendliness and, especially in these times of uncertainty, the wonderful, glorious comfort of the sameness of it all. That is not an unkind statement or a critique. In fact, I mean it as a great compliment. It is most satisfying to know before you enter that the men’s clothing is on the left, children’s on the right, footwear in the back and that the glass-topped service counter is still in the middle with same ancient cash register to cha-ching a sale.
And it is also most gratifying to know that you will be greeted by name by Frank Flemming, who always has a friendly smile and knows everyone’s preference and size of shoes and boots. He is joined by Janet, Joyce, Jane and Lydia, who will help you in any way they can, from new jeans to taking your payment for Historical Society dues. Flemming’s is also a good place to go for information of all sorts, especially about local events, businesses and people. It’s what they do and always have, for more than 65 years.
Flemming’s was in business when Lola and Bernie were the IGA, Neil was the drug store; when Harold and Virginia hung up the Ben Franklin 5-10 sign, Don and Esther were Sible’s Hardware and my dad was the Sinclair.
All of these folks, like all the other Marion businesses, were dedicated to their customers. Not one of them turned down a call for help, no matter the hour. If there was a call after business hours for food, medicine, a battery or the need for clothing or bedding, it meant something unfortunate had happened to one of our own. Be it illness, an accident or worst of all a fire, Marion folks helped each other. No waiting for the next business day. Help was given.
With the exception of Flemming’s Clothing, those folks, their businesses and many other Marion institutions are gone. Times may change but the Marion spirit of caring has never left us. This has been proven many times more times than we can count.
This week’s photo is of the businesses on the northeast corner of Main and Mill, about 1958. Flemming’s Clothing and Mrs. Flemming’s Gifts, is on the left, followed by Bernie’s which was newly remodeled in 1956. On the far right is Omer Hall’s Real Estate and Insurance business in the Hall Building. Today, we know the Bernie’s and Hall buildings as Artesian Springs Medical.
Flemming’s will always be Flemming’s.

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