There is a New Grocery Store in Town

There is a New Grocery Store in Town

We were at a friend’s house for dinner last night, and while we were eating some very delicious local fish, freshly caught earlier in the day by our hosts, the subject of our new grocery store came up. We have a brand new store – built to accommodate the needs of our growing community.  It is bigger than the store, of the same franchise, that already existed in our town – they just thought it was time for bigger and better. So, a new one was built – a short distance down the road. The “old” one has closed.

Well, it is bigger. I am still deciding whether it is better or not. This sprang to my mind late Thursday afternoon when I told my 18 year old I was going grocery shopping. He made some comment about staying in town (to go to the new store) and I told him that I was actually thinking of driving to the next town over, to the store I have been shopping at more regularly over the last few years.  The store in the next town is of the same franchise or family, so it is just the “branch” of the grocery store that I am choosing to shop at, not another family of stores, altogether. He thought I was nuts, for driving ten miles when I could drive 2.5 and be at the store.  To fully disclose what I did, I ended up going to the new store, only a couple of miles away.  It was my 3rd or 4th shopping trip there.

But, here are some of my observations and why I still might return to driving the ten miles into the store in the next town. 1) Our store is brand new. I find it dark. I like light, natural light, if available. 2) The isles are confusing. We like white rice, but white rice is not located with the other rice…..I have had to search for the rice each time I have been at the store. I do not understand the logic behind these products not being all together. 3) The eggs are in the very back corner. Okay, I know the economic, or marketing, or business reasons for putting things at the back of the store, but this location of the eggs seems to cause some bottlenecks. 4) I have been unable to find certain brands and versions of products that I regularly bought at the old store. No Red Rose Tea. No gourmet onion rings by Ore Ida.  No more nice sub rolls found near the deli.  My new favorite white wine is missing, too!  And, to top it all off – after a month of shopping there, I still cannot seem to find my way around well enough to get all the products on my list in one very logical and organized loop around the store.

I like this grocery store chain. The stores are clean, the employees are nice, they hire a lot of local youth, and they aim to please. They want you as their customer.  Their “sister” store in the next town has these same qualities. I guess my problem is that I was really looking forward to this new store and unfortunately, I feel somewhat disappointed by it when I visit.  I thought they were going to have a “dining deck” around the top level of the store, much like my beloved Wegmans Food Markets in Western New York.  There is no dining deck, just a couple of booths back by the deli.  Oh, how I miss Wegmans!  I guess you can take the girl out Wegmans, but not the Wegmans out of the girl!  This local chain visited Wegmans a couple of years ago, as the desire to expand had been brewing for a while, as more of these local grocery store chains were being built all over Wisconsin.  But, even this brand new store, freshly built and open less than a month, bears no resemblance to Wegmans.

I am not trying to bash a new store. I am sure the employees are still trying to figure things out, too. And, I do not need someone to repost, share, or run to the store with my blog, as some community member did with a post I wrote about a concern I had with our schools last month. Thank you, but no. That would be totally unnecessary as it was previously.  This family of grocery stores really does aim to please, so I plan take my short list of what I would like and cannot find to the store manager in the near future. I am sure it will be received well. They want our patronage. I want to support our local store. I am just not totally there yet.  As the saying goes, change is hard.

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The Grocery Store Chaos

The Grocery Store Chaos

I have to admit that grocery stores have always been somewhat of an obsession with me. It probably began when I was a little girl and shopped regularly on Friday nights in what was then the flagship store of the now extremely successful Wegmans Food Markets found in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States.  When we moved to the mid-west, I greatly missed “my” Wegmans – which was the Sheridan Road store in Williamsville, New York.

Wegmans offered a myriad of foods, and ethnic delights, some even prepackaged into quick-dinner options. The produce was always extremely fresh and locally sourced, even thirty years ago, before there was a big push to buy from local farmers.  As a youngster, one of my favorite enticements was being able to extract an extremely large pickle from the “pickle barrel” near the deli! As I grew older, and was an independent shopper, the bulk food area always provided our family some treats, not found easily elsewhere. A slice of German Bologna was given to my firstborn each week as he tagged along in the front of the shopping cart during our weekly trips. Wegmans made grocery shopping an experience, not the boring, routine chore it can become. Suffice it to say, the Wegman’s family (it is family owned) found much success in what they offered shoppers because now the Wegmans chain has grown from that one store in Rochester, New York to more than 90 stores in six states. Their success has been rewarded too.  In 2016, they were listed as #4 on the Fortune 500 list of best companies for which to work!

Although it seems like it, this is not an advertisement for Wegmans. It is just that I was reminded how much I miss the grocery chain when I shopped yesterday. For the last 18 years, I have been a patron of another family owned grocery chain, Festival Foods in Wisconsin. There are many similarities between the two grocery store chains. Festival is becoming what Wegmans has been for many decades – a leader in the local grocery store business. In fact, our town is getting a brand new Festival this fall, as we have out grown the old one. From what I hear, it will be even more similar to my beloved Wegmans, incorporating such things as a “dining deck” suspended above the store for those who just need to eat before, during, or after they shop.

But, yesterday!  Yesterday, when I entered the local Festival to grocery shop, I found it in chaos! Drills were sounding, hammers were pounding, refrigeration grates were removed and laying on the ground, pre-packaged veggies were moved to where the fruit once was, and a large area of the store was sectioned off. Moving further into the store, I knew finding the items on my list was going to be interesting. Teas and coffees were moved to where the bread was still on those same shelves just last week! If you read an earlier post of mine, you know I needed those tea bags!  Some isles were impassable as employees were pulling non-perishables out of their current space to be moved to another, new space. It was crazy!

One of the positive aspects was that despite some frustration of the extra noise and all the shoppers being in a daze, Festival management seemed to have thought ahead to having extra staff on hand to help direct patrons as to where to find what was on their grocery lists.  In looking for bean sprouts, so I can try making Vietnamese Pho Soup, I needed to utilize the assistance of one such employee. Unfortunately, after we both thought we found the appropriate isle, it turned out the that shelf only contained water chestnuts not bean sprouts! I was on my own again!

Luckily, none of the chaos seemed to be bothering anyone. I was able to find most of what was on my list, despite the item’s new location, and check out relatively quickly. However, the whole experience just left me shaking my head (still smiling) on my drive home, knowing I will be going through this again, when the new store opened this fall. I rationalized it by thinking that maybe, they are standardizing where all the groceries go in each store. I am probably wrong, but it is a thought! My other thought is that I miss my Wegmans.