Two Americas are on display here in Ripley, West Virginia, population 3,252. By Interstate 77, on the fringe of town, you can experience “Chain”ed America, and in the old part of town you find Local America.
My Quality Inn overlooks the freeway and looks the same as 10,000 other Chain hotels across the country. Walking a few blocks, I can eat cookie-cutter meals at Shoney’s, Ponderosa, Bob Evans, Long John Silver, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Arby’s.
There is a different Ripley just over the hill, down by the river. If you want to eat downtown, you can go to the Downtowner Restaurant. If you want your hair cut on Main Street, head to the Main Street Barbershop. The Alpine Theater is under renovation. There is innovation too. My lunch today was cooked from fresh crab at the recently opened Crabby Patti’s. Try finding that at Shoney-Evan-Ponder-Silver-McWendy-ArbyBell.
By my informal investigation, Ripley has one antique store per 813 people. I guess while marching forward to an unknown future, people like to stay connected to an authentic past.
You may not have experienced Ripley, but Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have each spoken here. Yep, they spoke in the real, authentic, Local America part of Ripley, not in lookalike national clones.
My biggest decision tomorrow: Lunch at Crabby Patti’s again, or should I try out the Downtowner Restaurant? As a confession, dinner tonight was a national chain salad, but I’m eager for lunch tomorrow back in Local America.