When there's a low number of characters populating a small, communal setting, individual characters will often be assigned roles within the community. Of these, a common one is to have the local economy pretty much completely controlled by a Shopkeeper who runs the only establishment where one can buy and sell goods. In other words, the Only Shop In Town.
Said establishment is usually a small, simple shop (rather than, say, some kind of department store) which nevertheless manages to have a complete monopoly. In other words, it's like a Mega-Corp, only scaled down to match the setting it's in. Note that this setting need not be an an actual, literal "town" for this trope to be in effect: whether the shop is in a forest or a city or a crater on the Moon, as long as there are no others nearby it qualifies.
These places rarely have more than one employee: the proprietor, who tends to be The Scrooge and may or may not be an important supporting character in the work (they won't usually be a central character, however, due to the sedentary nature of their role).
A sister trope to Only Law Firm in Town.
- Ads for stores (and other businesses) sometimes use this trope: characters will be shown to have some kind of problem, and the business being advertised will be presented as if it's the only available solution. Ads for products, on the other hand, avert it: they love to show their "competitors" (usually a Brand X version) and how they're not as good as the product being advertised.
- It is played straight in the anime Deltora Quest in an episode where we get Tom's Shop where he literally sells everything they need. Assuming they actually speak for the item. (No MacGuffins though). The shop is situated in the middle of nowhere, making it this trope.
"If you do not ask, you do not get. Is that your motto young sir? Well it is mine too."
- In most of the Tremors movies, Perfection, Nevada is served by Chang's General Store.
- In Father Ted John and Mary (the couple who are always trying to murder each other) run what seems to be the only shop on Craggy Island.
- Oleson's Mercantile is the only store in Walnut Grove in Little House on the Prairie.
- Sesame Street's only shop is Hooper's Store, which was run by Mr. Hooper until he died.
- Balamory: The titular village has one: Suzie Sweet and Penny Pocket run its only shop. To be fair, this is a village with about ten adult inhabitants, with one building each.
- Drucker's Grocery Store is the only store in Hooterville, yet it services two shows, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.
- Wrangler Jane's trading post (and post office) on F Troop qualifies as this, though O'Rourke and Agarn get a lot of their goods from the Indians.
- In Mash, BJ's father-in-law lives in Quapaw, Oklahoma, a town Hawkeye sarcastically describes as
Hawkeye: A gas station, a grocery store and a fashionable restaurant called "Eats".
- On Schitt's Creek the only shop in town, The Schitt's Creek General Store, closes to David's dismay. He eventually takes a lease out on the property and opens Rose Apothecary, which elegantly rebrands local products and crafts.
David: I can't tell what's more tragic, the fact that the only store in town is closing or that they decided to display the fungal cream next to the cereal boxes.Stevie: That's actually really convenient because I forgot to have breakfast and I'm running low on fungal cream.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Judges Guild's Dark Tower (1979). Avvakris' Trade Monopoly is the only general merchants supply house for miles around the village of Mitra's Fist, and the only place for PCs to buy standard supplies.
- Module I6 Ravenloft. Bildrath's Mercantile is the only general store, not only in the village of Barovia but in the entire domain. The store's owner charges 10 times normal prices and refuses to bargain. As he says, "If you want it badly enough, you'll pay for it - because you certainly won't be taking your business elsewhere."
- Module O2 Blade of Vengeance. The village of Oakendale has only one store. It carries most of the equipment in the BD&D Expert rulebook at a 5% markup.
- Dungeon magazine issue #38 adventure "Horror's Harvest". The village of Delmunster has Wulch's General Store, which sells most of the items found in the AD&D Player's Handbook except for armor and weapons.
- 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms boxed set, booklet "Shadowdale". The town of Shadowdale has only one store: Weregund the Trader's general supply store. It carries a variety of supplies, but does not compete with the local smithy, weaver or woodworking shop.
- White Dwarf magazine #18 adventure "The Halls of Tizun Thane". There is only one shop in the village of Cahli, a trading store where the Player Character party can buy supplies.
- Call of Cthulhu
- The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "Black Devil Mountain". The town of Indian River only has one general store. When the owner found that the recently arrived NPC Albert Goddard was living on Black Devil Mountain, he refused to sell anything to him and Goddard had to travel seven miles away to the town of Addison for supplies.
- Mansions of Madness, adventure "The Plantation". The Gist general store is the only one in the area. If the PCs want to buy supplies, they'll have to go there.
- The Fungi from Yuggoth adventure "Mountains of the Moon". The village of Huancucho in the Andes mountains of Peru has only one place to buy things: a small trading post which carries tools, canned food and other items.
- Shadows of Yog-Sothoth adventure "The Coven of Cannich". The only store in the small Scottish town of Cannich is owned by Jamie MacNab.
- Supplement Terror Australis, adventure "Pride of Yirrimburra". The small Australian town of Yirrimburra has only one general store, the source of manufactured goods and luxuries.
- The Unspeakable Oath magazine
- Issue #8/9, adventure "Dark Harvest". The only store in the town of Oak Valley, Iowa is Harv's General Store. Unfortunately for the investigators, the owner of the store is a member of the cult that infests the town.
- Issue #19, adventure "The Brick Kiln". The village of Trevor Major only has one shop, a general store run by Mrs. Alderson.
- Rolemaster Shadow World setting supplement Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates.
- Wolda's General Store in the town of Borbinak fills the needs of adventurers and the local farmers and serves the wholesale needs of local inns and taverns.
- The small village of Ryne has a single general store.
- Chivalry & Sorcery adventure Stormwatch. The town of Swift has only one store, a trading post that sells most of the supplies available in the game.
- Lejendary Adventures, introductory adventure "Moon Slaves". The town of Simton had only one general store, which belonged to Sylvester Mulhaven.
- It Came from the Late, Late Show II
- Adventure "Showdown at Dry Gulch Station". The town of Dry Gulch Station only has one store, the General Store owned by the Big Bad John Taylor. Customers can buy any product available in the Wild West, including weapons and explosives.
- Adventure "Tyrannosaurus Tex". The town of Bootheel only has a General Store owned by Howard Parrish.
- Tom Nook's store is the only one in the player's town in the original Animal Crossing (see the page image). The Able Sisters sell clothes and accessories in the sequels, but Tom Nook retains his stranglehold on the economy, being the major source of Bells. This changes with New Leaf, where Tom Nook just sells upgrades for your home (and unlike in previous games, he doesn't force you to upgrade when you pay off your current house). His honorary nephews Timmy and Tommy run the local furniture store, and your main source of income becomes the local recycling center/thrift store, Re-Tail.
- The Legend of Zelda
- Each populated area (for example Castle Town, Goron City and Zora's Domain) in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time tends to have its own little shop. Interestingly, they have unique shopkeepers (who have their own lines of dialogue), suggesting that Nintendo saw the shop as an important aspect of each such area.
- Some of the games do it a little differently, however. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has unique shops on a few islands, and the whole rest of the world is serviced by Beedle's Shop Ship. Both are examples of this trope.
- In The Wind Waker, the owner of the Bomb Shop on Windfall Island takes pride in the fact that he's the only resident of the Great Sea in the bomb-selling business, and uses it to set ridiculously sky-high prices for his bombs (10,000 rupees for a group of 10 bombs, for example). Though later on, he takes a level in kindness when Tetra and her group of Pirates, not willing to pay his prices, bind and gag him, and steal his wares from him instead. He starts charging far more reasonable prices after that.
- Minecraft has an interesting version, where a player on a multiplayer server will often set up a place to barter items with other players (note that this is not specifically provided for by the gameplay). Most servers only have one, because when the niche is filled no one will found another.
- Likewise, this tends to occur naturally in the Age of Empires games with the Market building. This building lets you buy and sell resources and trade with the other civilizations, but due to the specifics of how it works each civilization will only ever need one.
- Final Fantasy
- The series has always been pretty good about averting this trope. Sometimes, weapons and armor or both types of magic might be run out of the same building, but typically each type of supplies gets its own brick-and-mortar store in each town.
- Averted in Final Fantasy VI, where you find different shops for different items in different buildings.
- Played around in Dragon Age.
- Some cities get only one merchant but in others you are bound to see many merchants. The dwarven city of Orzammar oozes with them and you get some Dwarven travelers joining your trip.
- It's even the focus of a small sidequest in the besieged town of Lothering, where a Chantry sister is calling out the only merchant in town (aside from the innkeeper) for his price-gouging. The player can choose to drive the sister off or try and convince the merchant to lower his prices.
- In the World of Mana series we get the Cat Merchants which bring the item selling to various dangerous situations.
- The series puts its own little spin on this: each town only contains one shop, but they are all branches of the Pokémart Mega-Corp.
- Somewhat played straight in later installments: The Pokémart is now a part of each Pokémon Center, with a small shop in either the front or the back.
- Averted and played straight by turns in the Shining Series. Each town usually has one shop for weapons and one shop for healing items and power-ups. Occasionally though both will be sold in one store.
- Played around in Demon's Souls. Some maps have more than one merchant but every merchant sells all kind of items (outside the general potion management).
- Averted in Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. You are the owner of one of the shops in town and with the merchant credential you get discounts on the different shops in the market. Some shops are referenced even though you cannot see them.
- Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals has a rather major aversion: there is a shop for items, another for spells and another for general items, in different buildings.
- Zig-Zagged in the first Uncharted Waters: in any big port you will have exactly one shop to trade in common goods, one to trade items and treasures (optional), and one to build and sell ships (each located on the exact same spot on the port's Point-and-Click Map). The second game sometimes has several shops of the same kind per port but also plays it relatively straight for the most part.
- Averted in Drakensang: Each of Ferdok's areas have several merchants selling different stuff, from armors, to weapons, to clothes, to potions, to magic ingredients to useful items and even useless crap too. The sequel even has to vendors (one for weapons, the other for armors) across the same small square, who'll often snark at each other when they're not doing business with you.
- Quite common in the Fallout series, as the post-apocalyptic world rarely allows for villages and towns large enough to have more than one shop. While they occasionally include a bar and/or a restaurant, Novac in Fallout: New Vegas has nothing but a general store and a covered communal eating area with no vendor.
- In The Elder Scrolls series, this is common for many smaller towns and villages. They often have just a single general trader. Averted in larger towns and cities, who have many more shops offering a wider variety of often specialized goods.
- The traditional "only shop in town" trope only appeared in the first Shadow Hearts and it was a commodity at that. Most of the time you brought your stuff from an unnamed "tight-lipped merchant" that showed up in places. Covenant got ride of shops altogether and replaced them with the Magimel Brothers who appeared in every location, including dungeons, regardless of anything and too much to Yuri's disbelief. Only Gerard returned in From the New World and along his boyfriend Bunghen, took pretty much the same role.
- Free Country, USA in Homestar Runner has Bubs' Concession Stand. This is a small structure where one can buy just about anything. Weirdly, no currency ever seems to actually change hands, even when characters "shop" there.
- Not only does Bubs run the only shop in the HR universe, he apparently personally runs every single form of enterprise, from the bar in Club Technochocolate to Strong Bad's Internet Service Provider.
- The TV series based on the Noddy books by Enid Blyton added a doll named Dinah Doll, whose market is the only shop in Toyland.
- The Economy Cast of Fireman Sam includes Shopkeeper Dilys Price, who runs the only shop in Pontypandy. Probably a justified example, at least in the original stop-motion series, as the village appears to be pretty small. You can also sometimes see characters holding carrier bags from a Bland-Name Product version of Tesco, roughly the British equivalent of Wal-Mart.
- Trading posts in remote jungles and such qualify by definition.
- The Simpsons
- The Android's Dungeon seems to be the only shop in Springfield where one can buy comic books. In a bit of Irony, the one day the Shopkeeper tried to gloat about it to customers threatening to buy comics elsewhere was the day a bigger comic book shop was opening across the street from his.
- In one episode Homer hires a builder called Surly Joe when the house's foundations were damaged, but gets outraged when Joe gave him an expensive estimate and tells him "Forget it! You can't be the only foundation repair guy in town!" He goes inside, opens the phonebook to "foundation repair", and finds one advert: "Surly Joe's, the only foundation repair business in town".
- For the most part, the people of Springfield only ever seem to buy groceries at the Kwik-E-Mart.
- The 2009 reboot of Strawberry Shortcake has Orange Blossom's store.
- The Flintstones
- Bedrock has only one caterer, which is why the owner, as he puts it, can afford to be "such a smart alec". And after Fred hires him to cater Pebbles' birthday party and his lodge's meeting and the guy gets the two mixed up, he actually gets away with it, for the same reason.
- Bedrock has the same problem with costume stores, and Fred gets in hot water with his boss after a bad experience with the only such store.
- Occasionally happens in rural areas, where a village will be served by one family-run grocery shop. Not exactly common in cities.
- Wroxham in Norfolk (pop. 1500) has about a dozen outlets of Roys of Wroxham, including Roy's Food Hall, Roy's Garden Centre, Roy's Toys & Games, Roy's DIY, Roy's Zone Young Fashion, Little Miss Roy's girls outfitters - it's like Hazzard County there!
- A fair number of villages in the UK will have a Post Office (which doubles as a small supermarket), and typically a Pub and a Church.