a la cart

The local family-owned grocery store in my town now makes its home in a small shopping plaza about half a mile from the downtown area. Formerly, it lived right on Main street, which was awesome, but it moved to better compete with Hannaford's (c.f. Stop & Shop).

The shopping plaza is about fifteen years old. Fifteen year-old humans exhibit a wide range of characteristics. Some are still childlike, fresh-faced, and innocent. Others are pudgy little grease-balls, gorging themselves on tobacco, alcohol, drugs, sex, goth clothes, and fast food.

You could use the latter as a crass analogy for the Coastal Marketplace Shopping Plaza at its present age. You'd just have to be careful not to confuse the analogy with the clientele.

Although it seems like they just built it a few years ago (in a swamp), the floor of the place already sags. A lot. In one direction. This leads to some interesting potential scenarios.

1. "Honey, where do you suppose they keep the pickles? I can't seem to find…HEY where's the cart?"

2. "Oh I…I'm sorry Mr. Man-a-ger. I…I was just stopping to look at the…at the a-dult hy-gine products but…but I must have for-gotten to set the…to set the brake on my wheel-chair. Oh I'm so sorry. Oh I'm…I do ho…I do hope it wasn't ex…ex-pen-sive."

3. "Dude, why is that coke bottle running away?"

Not all of these are as funny as you think. I'm a firm believer in supporting local businesses. In fact, I think all local people should buy their art locally, since local art dealers desperately need their support. And I would ordinarily love to support my local grocery store too.

But when the soda is flatter than the floor—when the ground tuna at the fish counter looks more colorful and more alive than the lady selling it—when the Red Sox get a clean sweep more frequently than the floors—you know that it's time—that perhaps local-family ownership has stopped caring (or never cared to begin with), and that maybe you don't have to care anymore either. Maybe it's now OK to patronize Supermarketus maximus down the road, which has, conveniently, just added two additional square miles of floorspace and an atrium that could swallow trees.

Perhaps at fifteen, the local store is just the tatty, pockmarked younger sister of the shiny new supermarket with which it tries to compete. Perhaps the glassy new atrium is a sign of the future—a physical premonition of the way the local store will—someday—look. After, of course, it kicks the butts and the booze, scrubs the grease, and, more importantly, finds some more flattering fish.

I hope it hurries up. Boosterism is tough.

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5 Responses to “a la cart”


  1. 1 Jen June 13, 2006 at 2:10 am

    Does Supermarketus maximus carry coffee yogurt? Because that would be the perfect excuse to betray local business right there.

  2. 2 Yammy June 13, 2006 at 3:21 am

    …or flan? Cause sometimes I just really want some flan.

  3. 3 Mary Beth June 13, 2006 at 4:42 am

    ::gasp:: did Alden just make a baseball reference?!

  4. 4 swaberry June 18, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    In the spirit of anthropomorphizing our grocery stores, the local co-op where I do some of my shopping could only be described as a twenty-something urban metrosexual hipster, the type I could envision attending a gender-free contradance. I believe I saw plantains there, actually…

  5. 5 alden June 19, 2006 at 12:23 am

    I can assure you, however, that at the only gender-free contradance I played for, the dancers were not urban, DEFINITELY not twenty-something, and, although I was a little far away to tell, probably not grocery stores. Don’t quote me on the last one though.


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