“You have a drive-thru what?!” Or Creating a Sense of Place

Droop Dog's Beverage Center

Droop Doggs Drive-Thru

Hubby is not into books. But recently he acquired an electronic reader and has downloaded a handful of novels. A couple of the books were chosen simply because the action took place around The Twin Cities, a place where he once lived and worked for several years. There was an immediate connection and curiosity about how the area would be portrayed, if the stories would include any familiar landmarks or streets.

Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to grab a book off the shelf – “Hey! I know that place!” And there’s trouble for any author who doesn’t get that place just right.

Which brings me to the title of this post and the picture above. I’m from the Midwest and that’s what I know. That picture is a drive-thru beverage center. In my hometown we have three of them. Do I hear some of you saying, “You have a drive-thru what?!” That’s the usual response when I mention them. They’re a convenience store you drive through.  They’re great and, well, convenient. One drives up to the garage door at one end, pulls forward to make the purchase, then exits through the garage door at the opposite end. Many small towns in the Midwest have them.

The three I grew up with were all different. I’ve never been through the one above. A different one had beverages – milk, pop, beer – but also eggs, lunch meat, bread, and snacks.

This one, doesn’t have foodstuff, (maybe because Phil’s is right next door), but it does have hard liquor … and guns.

Riverside Drive-Thru

Riverside Drive-Thru

Not sure how those fit together, but in all the years Riverside has been in business there hasn’t been a problem. DSC00539 The Youngs have owned Riverside for years. My parents played euchre (a popular card game in the Midwest) with Gary’s parents. Gary and his son Matt are great guys.

Matt Young

Matt Young



I thought drive-thru beverage centers were common, after all we had three! So did my daughter until she traveled with a retreat team a few years ago. The team was made up of young adults from all over the United States. When they traveled back to Ohio, they asked her what those strange buildings were with the garage doors in the middle. When she told them, their response was of course, “A drive-thru what?!” The team had to drive through one. They thought it was pretty cool.

I Googled this seemingly odd Midwest enterprise, especially after a writer friend posted she had to go to a restaurant to buy one bottle of beer, because other than restaurants and bars, there was no other kind of licensed alcohol-selling establishments in her PA town. I thought, ‘you don’t have a what?!’

I found these beverage centers are in most other states, but mainly in the Midwest and north eastern coastal states. They are called by other names, depending on the region – Brew Barn, Party Barn, Bootlegger, Beer Barn, Beverage Barn. A survey on the site  indicated that out of 10,458 respondents to the question, ‘What do you call this?”, 48% had never seen such a thing.

Writing with a sense of place is more than just describing it. It’s knowing the right word for things, knowing the local idioms, and knowing those subtle details that make the reader say, “Hey! I know that place! And so does the writer.”

My main place is the Midwest. My characters play euchre and drink Squirt. And they sometimes buy it at a drive-thru beverage center. Care to come along for the ride?

Riverside Drive-Thru

Riverside Drive-Thru

As a writer or reader, what puts you in the right place?

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10 Responses to “You have a drive-thru what?!” Or Creating a Sense of Place

  1. Claire says:

    OMGosh, how fun! We frequented two, down the shore in Brick Town, NJ. Until we moved there from northern Jersey, we had no idea there were such places, probably because northern Jersey has bars, convenience stores on every block. In Brick, we’d drive thru one – Buchanan’s (I think it’s still there owned by the same family), which is a drive-thru garage just like Riverside, only for beverages, and get free pretzel sticks for the number of kids in the car. The other one was a Welsh Farms strictly food, milk, ice cream – no alcoholic beverages, where we ordered at one window, and drove around the building and picked up the order at the back door. I had forgotten all about these places until this journey with you. LOVE your journeys! And loved seeing inside the store – very cool! Till next time!!

    • Thanks Claire! Happy to bring you along Memory Lane and open the door – garage or otherwise – to your own special memories. I love your snippet about a free pretzel stick for every kid in the car – hey! A title for one of your stories 🙂 I agree, it’s fun to see how one little memory triggers so many others. And they all put us back into a specific place.

      Have a great day, too, Claire.

  2. Kim, This was a new one for me. Of course, I’ve spent most of my life in good old South Carolina, with occasional excursions elsewhere. I love your photos of the place, and it really helps me to know what kind of place it is. I’ve often thought that places like Quick Stop or Circle K–gas stations with a convenience store–are sometimes inconvenient. If I have a small child with me, I have to leave her buckled into her car seat to run in to pay for gas or buy a carton of milk–and I’m constantly glancing out the weekend to make sure no one grabs my grandchild while I’m inside. I think your drive-thru beverage barn would be a place I could definitely use!

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Thanks, Martha and Yes! They are wonderful when you have a little one in the car and they’re great when it’s raining. So glad I could give you a peek into my tiny Midwest world 🙂

      I think one of the best things about traveling is learning what’s unique or special for that area. That’s why I like finding those mom and pop restaurants and shops when I’m away from home. Who wants to go to a chain-owned place when I can go there at home? And a lot of times I try and avoid them here too lol

      Have a great day, Martha.
      ~ Kim

  3. I grew up in Ohio and drank squirt from the green bottle. We’d go make a “pop stop” at the drive thru so the guys could load it in the car. Fun especially when it was snowing. It was a special treat to stop there- thanks for the memory.

    • Hi Jennifer ~ You are quite welcome! So many wonderful memories of growing up in a small Midwest town. We had to bring cans or bottles of Squirt back with us whenever we went back home. You can find down here if you look hard enough … but they won’t be in any drive-thrus 🙂


  4. Marilyn Stepro says:

    Thanks for talking up a “positive” about Galion – too much political negativity going on now!

    • Hi Marilyn! Thanks. Yes, I hate that, it’s still a great little town. I actually have a lot of positive ‘stuff’ from my last visit. I think maybe it takes an ‘outsider’s’ view to show some of the locals what a gem they have. I’d hoped to have something written for the Inquirer for homecoming weekend but will still get a letter to the editor together. Or maybe a longer op-ed piece! Looking forward to a return in November.
      ~ Kim

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