The convenience store that won my heart
Silver Springs is one of the smaller communities tucked away in the northwest of Calgary.
There are three vibrantly-coloured playgrounds that are surrounded by rough pebbles rather than the rubbery tar seen at most modern sets.
Towards the south, a thick ravine doubles as an off-leash dog park and a bike path that snakes around the valley, separating our community from the frigid Bow River. The same path winds up into the neighbourhood, creating an imaginary line that divides Silver Springs into upper and lower, almost as though it were an East and West gang rivalry.
There has always seemed to be this mentality when I was a kid that the lower part of Silver Springs was the cool, hip part of the community, while the upper was full of old people and drunk university students. Perhaps us lower kids were a tad biased.
In the lower area of Silver Springs is a delicious, family-owned Chinese restaurant that I frequent at least once per week.
Even the thought of Wing's Chinese Food restaurant makes my knees weak; the fresh smell of ginger and pork dumplings being fried in the eggshell-white kitchen, and the overpowering smell of oyster sauce and broccoli being cooked. Wing's is a tiny gem in our community that remains hidden in the back of a lower Silver Springs strip mall.
Coffee with a smile
Although Wing's is absolutely brilliant in terms of food, it is the Mac's convenience store in the same strip that warms everyone's hearts with a fresh cup of coffee and the most friendly and hardworking woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
"Hello, Jona'tan! " says a friendly voice, perking her head over the counter. Dolores Galvan - working the Wednesday morning shift - is busy running around filling up the coffee pots, stocking the cigarettes, and multitasking as the cashier. A woman who never ceases to work hard, Dolores has coarse dark to her shoulders, a golden necklace with a small cross pendant, beat up white sneakers and a face that never stops smiling.
It is 8 a.m. and I am already off to my journalism ethics class and like every morning, I stop at Mac's for a hazelnut coffee and a sugar-free Rockstar. The store has a chill this morning and I can see she has the sleeves on her thin blue shirt rolled down.
"You off to school already? What happened to 'I don't do mornings, Dolores'?"
Dolores has been the franchise owner of this Mac's convenience store for 16 years. I have been coming here since elementary school — conveniently right across the street — sneaking out of class with a friend to grab a quick stash of sugar and slurpees. She tells me to have a fantastic day, making a quick crack about how impressed she is I managed to wake up this early.
The following day I have neither class nor work. I take some time to sit at the small table in the corner of the store. I decided to walk to Mac's this morning, rather than drive. It's a short walk; five minutes if I cut through all of the alleyways. The store always seem to be in perfect condition; well cleaned, and everything in the same order it has been for 16 years. It seems that most people coming in the store have the courtesy to thoroughly wipe their shoes on the rug in winter to avoid leaving tracks in the store, as there are rarely any marks.
While I sit there, the flow of people increases. First it is just me, then a couple enters, an elderly man, a woman in yoga pants – likely headed to the gym just three doors down – and a man rushing to grab a sandwich and coffee, clearly late for something.
The elderly man I had seen before casually walks to the coffee station. Dolores greets him and they start to chat. Usually, conversations with Dolores last a quick moment, but he and Dolores seem to have a closer, friendlier relationship. I would venture a guess to say he had been coming here for years, much like myself.
Change in scenery
They talk for 10 minutes, the elderly man moving out of the way when someone new comes to pay at the register, and then continuing on wherever he and Dolores left off.
Sitting in a corner, I listen to their conversation, overhearing Dolores say she had planned on closing this particular store down.
"Allan and I built this store from the ground up, you know, 16 years ago," Dolores says. "But it's just not as busy as it used to be. I have to move and go somewhere new."
This comes as a surprise to me as I sip my morning coffee. I begin to think about how different my morning ritual will be without Dolores to greet me, or where I will get my morning coffee, or my midnight snacks of licorice and sour candies.
Dolores explains herself to the man, as well as other customers listening in, saying she will be moving everything out by March 1. The elderly gentleman continues to ask her where she is moving to as I join the conversation.
"I could never leave this community. Allan and I are moving up to the Mac's location up there," Dolores says, as she points north to the hill that leads to Silver Springs' upper location.
I glance at the man, and then laugh in unison. We thought Dolores was moving to an entirely different location.
"I thought you were going to say you were packing up shop to some south location, or a downtown store," he says. "Good to know. I'll definitely see you up at the top-side Mac's." Wishing Dolores a good day, he exits the store with his coffee, likely empty by now.
Another woman I had seen before on my morning and even nightly trips to Mac's, chimes up as Dolores rings in her coffee and an edition of "People" magazine.
"As long as you have the same coffee and that same Dolores smile we all know, you'll see me there," she says.
"Dolores has a huge presence in our community. She seems to know everyone, and everyone knows her," she says. "Even my kids know her, and it's just really cool how Dolores somehow keeps track of all the Silver Springs people."
Can only go up from here
I finish the last swig of my coffee and grab myself a fresh one, the aromatic smell of the dark roast blend Dolores had just brewed fills that side of the store. I continue to ask her about the transition from lower to upper Silver Springs, which has always had this odd sense of division in the community.
"I'm scared, and nervous for moving to this new place," Dolores says. "I have been at this store for 16 years now. I'll have to learn new names and new faces. But it is going to be a good move. Now I can make more of the money and meet more people.
"You must come to visit, or I will be lonely up at this new store," she finishes. I assure her I would be there everyday, wish her a fantastic day, and head out the door and go home.
Dolores is friendly, hard-working, active in the community she is part of, and seems to brighten up the day of everyone she comes in contact with. This simple convenience store has been a huge part of my childhood, and even today I am guaranteed a smile whenever Dolores greets me. I look forward to the transition and new adventures in the faraway lands of upper Silver Springs that Dolores will have.
- By JONATHAN VERN MCGILL