Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Down with A&P? Yeah- they know me!

So, the big news coming out of my town this week is the impending closing of our local grocery store.  To be honest-- no one is really surprised.  Ever since a thunderstorm blew off a large chunk of the wall a few weeks ago, we had to face the truth that the store needed some serious work.  But still, this comes as a real upset to some of us loyal buy-local-ers.  And by "buy local" I only mean that we prefer to drive across the street to the grocery store instead of traveling a minimum of three major miles to a different store. 
Sure-- we're definitely sad about those in our community who will be losing their jobs, but it's more than that.  Because our local Superfresh (A&P owned-- yes, I know I had to stretch to use that title for this post), is one of the few places- perhaps the only store-  where I can ignore my children.  I am that woman who goes to the store sometimes simply to have a break from my children.  And no, Superfresh doesn't provide supervised daycare-- but close to it.

You see, I've been eschewing cheaper prices and greater variety at other stores simply for the convenience of being able to allow my children to run free in Superfresh.  And if you are reading this thinking "what type of mother are you?"-- I'll explain.  If you're reading this thinking "oh-- those are YOUR kids..."-- well, I'm sorry.  I hope my explanation suffices.

I have lived in Elkridge for six years now and have been going to Superfresh on an average of twice a week for these last six years.  If you do the math, you'll see that that's roughly 600 times over the last six years.  And in those last six years, the employees as Superfresh have remained relatively stable.  I know exactly who is going to be working the register and which manager will be on duty regardless of what time I decide to show up.  And they all know me.  Most of those employees charted my progress through my last two pregnancies, placing bets on when I would not be in the store due to a newborn, and offering me a plethora of baby names each time I attempted to speedily go through checkout.   There's nothing like listening to every baby name a person has every considered or heard to hit a slow-checkout record, I guarantee you.  To be honest, I could have foregone my ob/gyn visits by the time I was 9 months pregnant with Micha n lieu of grocery shopping.  My belly was touched, my weight monitored, my ankles eyed up for swelling on a regular basis. I would not have been surprised if at some point one of the cashiers had asked me to drop my pants so they could check my cervix.  (On another note, there may have been a time when a male employee hinted at that, but I don't think it was pregnancy related, despite what I chose to tell my husband.)

 I know the family situations, financial situations, and future big dreams of most of those cashiers and stockers.  When I lost my baby two years ago, one of the employees wrapped her arms around me in the canned food aisle and cried with me as I had to tell her about that loss in response to her chipper "how's the baby?!"  In return, I cried with her as she told me of her child that died in infancy- a pain I can never even pretend to understand.  These people are my twice a week family-- and I can guarantee that before you decided to leave your child with a babysitter you didn't meet them 600 times and cry in their arms.  

Which brings me to my major point about losing this store.  This is a store that I am extremely comfortable losing my kids in.  It's small enough that if I scream "KAYTON-- WHERE ARE YOU???" loudly enough, I will hear her reply on the other side of the store.  I can send my kids off with a grocery list and instructions to meet me by the dog food when their mini-carts are full, and I know they will be there.  When Kolbie slips my grip and takes off "I want to help you shop too, Mommy!", I know she'll be okay... and while I walk quite a bit slower than her, I'm always passing one of the store managers, stockers, butchers, or cashiers who will smile and point and say "she went that way."  Heck-- half the time I don't even have to tow Micah around since the moment I walk into the store someone swoops down on me with "THE BABY'S HERE!"  and the baby is gone until I discover her waiting patiently in someone's arms by aisle 4 when I'm ready to check out.  Again-- did you interview your baby 600 times before you left your child alone with her?  

And if you're going to bring up the issue of security-- no one's leaving that store with my kids as long as that one particular cashier manager is standing in her usual place by the self-service checkout, right next to the exit door.  I've never seen her smile, and she has a tendency to ignore my self-depreciating comments regarding my parenting-- but I know she won't let those kids out that door without me.  The only time she ever spoke to me was to say "I saw a man in here with HER (pointing at Kolbie) the other day.  Was that your husband?"  to which I replied, I surely hope so.  I got the feeling that after I left she pulled out her notebook filled with photos of customers and statistics such as "4 kids, uses her club card, has a tendency to talk to the register and beg it to stay below a certain figure.  Also may have attempted to bribe a cashier into a discount once" and add "has a husband who may appear with a child occasionally.  See attachment" before rearranging the photos so that JMahl's picture is now next to mine and those of the children.  

So, yeah, I feel safe in that store.  And relaxed.  And I'm going to miss it.  But that being said, I do have a suggestion for that space, should anyone reading this be looking for a business opportunity.

Half grocery store; half wine bar-- and still with the same kid friendly employees.  I shop, take a break from shopping to have a few drinks-- and you watch my kids for me the whole time.  And since I only live a quarter mile away, maybe it would be convenient to add a taxi service, complete with baby seats, so that after I have my fill of  wine tasting you can drive us all home.

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