Review: X Marks the Spot


Note: as part of Throwback Thursday, I’m posting this piece I wrote April 4, 2014, for my LiveJournal blog. I am planning to slowly move over anything of substance from LiveJournal to this one, with plans on turning the LiveJournal into something else.

Additional note: for one of my class assignments in the spring of 2014, I had to write a critique of something that – at least for the class – could not be verified. This could be a show that was no longer playing, a restaurant that was closed, or something that was just difficult for them to get to. The point was to write something so creatively that it didn’t matter if you’d never be able to experience it. This is what I came up with. 

It’s an unassuming little store in a quiet little town. The outside looks like a stereotypical hunting lodge or camp cabin, mixed with a standard suburb strip mall – the only thing that makes it truly unique being the giant red X alight in neon. But it’s the sign outside that advertises the contents of the store (supermarket, liquor & wine, deli, humidor, and 99 cent store) that gives just a hint of the absurd wonderfulness that is the Red X store in Riverside, Missouri, nestled in the suburb of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Red X is the redneckiest store ever. You can find groceries, cow feed, fireworks, and one of the best (and widest) wine selections in Missouri – all under the same roof. The store, like any other, is divided into areas. The grocery section is separate from the wine section. The humidor is walled off, appropriately enough behind an employee who will only let you in if you are of age to buy tobacco, but is just an aisle away from the toys. And then there are the rows of knickknacks – everything from legitimate antiques to stuffed badgers, and these are typically exchanged out for traveling – I guess the appropriate word would be exhibits – that’s included a selection of eyeballs and tower bells. And don’t forget that there’s also hardware and farm equipment ready for sale. It’s a little creepy, but in all the right ways.

Red X is dedicated to being a firm part of the Riverside community, and therefore has several events throughout the year. The parking lot has been home to carnivals and car shows (antique and new), and even once had a selection of planes from the Kansas City air show parked there for people to examine and tour. The owner even has a regular seasonal tent outside that does everything from fireworks displays on the 4th of July to Santa (and full petting zoo, including – of course – reindeer) for Christmas.

Photo courtesy Red X's Facebook page
Photo courtesy Red X’s Facebook page

That wine collection I mentioned has gotten such a reputation that the store now has a monthly wine tasting club, where you get to work with one of their ‘liquor consultants’ in the aisle right across from the gold-plated cowboy statue sitting on the charcoal briquettes ready for sale.

That community involvement extends beyond your stereotypical marketing ploys, though. They also sponsor and support a lot of charities and neighborhood initiatives, everything from walkathons to fundraisers for the local animal shelter. The community rallied right back around them when they were almost completely underwater during the flood of 1993, helping with sandbags during and rebuilding after.

Now, the store isn’t perfect. The groceries offered are typically not the freshest in the world, and the food sold at the deli is often just this close to being past it’s prime. But then again, the prices are cheap, and you know the saying: you get what you pay for. The aisles are extremely tight, making navigation around the store difficult, which means shopping trips are always a bit of a headache.

Despite the weird variety of items, when it comes down to it, the store doesn’t actually have the widest selection of things to buy. It’s not a place I’d go to shop regularly when I lived there. In fact, in the 20 or so years I lived in the Kansas City area, I think I bought something there only a handful of times. Even then, it was very specific items that I was looking for, such as something for a white elephant gift exchange, pickled eggs, or Vess soda, which normally isn’t sold in the Kansas City area.

In the end, Red X is more like a combination of a flea market and a mom and pop 5 and dime, the draw more from its carnival-like atmosphere than it’s actual wares. It’s a great place to visit, but not necessarily a good place to shop. In other words, it’s the perfect tourist trap should you ever be visiting the Kansas City area and are willing to go into the more redneck area of town.

For this quaint community treasure, X definitely marks the spot.