If someone were to ask us what one of our golden memories as a child growing up in Lebanon was, a majority of us would have answered: trips to the corner store or as most of us know it – the “dekkene.” Endless trips with your friends or even with your grandparents where a 1,000 L.L. could have probably bought you half the store. It was part of everyone’s childhood experience whether you actually lived in Lebanon or you were visiting for the summer. Nowadays it has us wondering if the younger generations have the same memories to recall as we did, especially since the supermarkets, emphasis on the super, are piling up and no one feels the need to go to these corner stores anymore. Are the shiner packaging and the brighter lights of new establishments taking over the minds of the younger generation convincing them that the corner store isn’t good enough anymore? We were on a mission to find out.
Take for example the local dekkene, on Abdel Wahab Street, owned by Hanna Gedeon. Hanna opened his store one year after the war began in 1975. His son Joseph has been helping him run it since he opened. The small corner-store is as typical a dekkene as it gets: small and packed to the ceiling with products ranging from household cleaning detergents to sweets, drinks and other treats. While the products are all new, the place has a vibe that will immediately take you back in time – the 70s era coffee grinder sits proudly on the counter, the old rotary phone still has a place next to the cashier. Even the refrigerator has been there since 1975. Gedeon’s dekkene has been opened for 40 years but it has only been in the last 20 that he has witnessed the biggest change in regards to clientele. Before, the actual person would come in and spend a good 40 minutes picking out what he or she needed for the whole week, as to now where people are sending their helpers for only the emergency products like the popular seller, beverages. Business was different during the war because their dekkene was the supermarket of the area and it had much more elaborate products such as vegetables and fruits. So will this dekkene survive the supermarket wars? Maybe, but unfortunately, it seems no one in the new generations of Gedeons is willing to take over in the long run.
On Beydoun Street, Mohamed Al Halabi runs his neighborhood dekkene. Mohamed inherited the store from his father, who opened it 70 years ago. At the age of 10, Mohamed started helping out his father in the store, and since his father’s passing took over it full time. Like the Gedeon’s dekkene, it used to have a much larger product line such as vegetables and fruits, but ever since Mohamed unfortunately lost the use of his legs this became a much harder endeavor, seeing as he would usually be at the fruit and vegetable market by 2 am and then back at his store by 4 am.
Al Halabi has also witnessed the change over the decades, of not only the clientele, but the family culture as well. He expressed that with the rise of several developments in the area, the neighborhood’s atmosphere has become completely different and he doesn’t feel the family spirit anymore. Despite the cultural change Mohamad is still determined to continue working in order to keep his dekkene alive.
With our fast-paced lives and increasing needs, the supermarket will continue to be an important part of our everyday lives – not to mention the jobs these establishments create. However, our local dekkene can be seen as a part of our cultural fabric, and should we soon see their disappearance, the only way they would be remembered is in the stories we tell our children, beginning with the words: “When I was your age…”
Share with us the memories of you local dekkene in the comment box below.