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Artesia
Sunday, July 14, 2024

Downtown History: B&B Newsstand, a modern relic

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(Bret Harden – Daily Press)

When asked, most people in Artesia couldn’t tell you what the “B and B” in B&B Newsstand stands for. A shame really, because this little relic is a wonderful corner shop, full of history and a lot of personal touches. It’s Artesia’s own little time machine. It takes you to a place where time isn’t a worry. The inside is relatively the same as it was in the 1920s.

The shop on Main Street wasn’t always B&B. It was originally Cunningham’s Confectionary. It remained through the 1920s, becoming Palace Drug in the 1950s. In 1974, Bill and Bernell Johnson bought the building that we recognize as B&B today. The couple moved from their Roselawn Avenue location, bringing their business and a great historical building together.

Bill worked for Conaco, and Bernell was the head bookkeeper at the local grocery store, H&J. A woman named Mary was hired to run the store during work hours. During the summer, or after school, their children would help run it, as well.

Gayla, the current owner and daughter of Bill and Bernell, recalls coming in to Palace Drug as a child, watching her mother and father get their favorite things there: westerns for Bernell, and usually just a cigar for Bill. Gayla would get a Woodie Pie for a nickel and sit on the counter with her bubble gum cigars. She says she loved sitting up there and reading comics. Her mother made sure to keep the tradition of selling comic books when she bought the store, and it is a tradition kept today.

(Bret Harden – Daily Press)

This shop has always been a place to slow down and relax, and the B&B of today is no different; time seems to slow to a trickle once inside. Even at its busiest, no one is in a rush, and everyone is fine with that. It’s still a place to get your favorite thing, whatever that thing may be, and have a spot to enjoy it. Kids play checkers with strangers, and depending on the time of day, old men gather with coffee to catch up and talk about current goings-on. It’s impossible to be impatient while being there.

Today, the shop is still running strong, despite the many large retail stores in Artesia. B&B has watched other shops along Main Street struggle and fall with the fickle oilfield but has never closed its doors out of hardship. It has something that a lot of new businesses don’t have, even if there are no shelves lined with merchandise. The merchandise here is unique to the customer. Most everything provided has a unique intent – not as much to make profit but, rather, to be helpful.

So, while it may not have what everyone wants, it has something for everyone – a cool drink in a quiet shop on a hot day or a warm place to be when the weather gets bitter. Even if the customer is not sure what they need, it’s a safe bet Gayla knows. Just watch out, because on the way out, she will probably provide a hug – a wonderful and unexpected surprise in today’s busy world.

Since its purchase in 1970, the interest in the individual has kept this quaint little shop in business. Very specific and uniquely personal sales are the specialty.

Artesians and visitors to the community alike are encouraged to pop in and get a Gayla Special one of these hot days ahead. Don’t ask what it is – it’s exactly what you need.

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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