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Dixie Used Furniture Gervais below Assembly: 1980s   no comments

Posted at 8:08 pm in historic,stores

Dixie Used Furniture was on Gervais Street below Assembly. If you were heading down towards the river, it would be on the left hand side of the street in the building which I think became the Vista's brew-pub and now houses some other restaurant.

Dixie was a type of store which was once fairly common but is now almost gone: The real "used furniture" aka "junk" store. To walk into Dixie as a child was to enter a world of wonder. The building was not air-conditioned, so there were always big fans keeping up a running chatter, and there was dust on pretty much everything. There were a few hanging light fixtures under the high ceiling, but parts of the store were always in shadow.

Although there was used furniture to justify the store name, it seemed to me that the main business was used appliances, and the center aisle was lined with rows of more or less decrepit refrigerators, stoves and washers. There were sometimes old vending machines too, and I think for a time the owners kept operating a Coke machine which had a manual crank like a Model-T. You paid the owner, then turned the crank, and a cold bottle came out the bottom.

My favorite part of the place was the bookshelves. These were alongside the left (closest to Assembly) side of the store, and could have absolutely anything that had ever been printed on them. The books ranged from gems like copies of the original Tom Swift books (Tom Swift and His Sky Train, Tom Swift and His Giant Searchlight etc) to semi-current hardbacks (a copy of Philip K. Dick's The Galactic Pot Healer [man I ended up hating that book!]) to old pulp magazines and trashy 60s & 70s paperbacks. After that, I liked to walk the aisles of junk: from old kitchen gadgets, toasters juicers and the like to odd electrical items I couldn't figure out.

My only problem with Dixie and other used furniture stores was that my mother was really into the "furniture" aspect of them, and it took her much longer to peruse that than it did for me to scour the shelves and sift the junk, leaving long periods of boredom after the initial excitement. The space race was on during the years of her heaviest visitations, and I recall clearly a dream in which I was on a rocket to the moon which she demanded stop at a used furniture store on the way..

As the years went on, the category of "used furniture store" gradually went by the wayside. I think that part of it was growing affluence and the migration of the best pieces of furniture to "antique" stores, the other part may have been the value of the real estate vs the value of selling junk. I very much suspect that was the case for Dixie with its gentrifying Vista location. At any rate, I think it and its sister store closed sometime in the 80s. Too bad. It sounds like they're considering "improving" our washing machines like they improved our toilets. A place with a row of used top loaders might not be so bad..

Written by ted on January 22nd, 2008

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