Requiem For a Grocery Store

Posted on Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 at 09:38

The closing of the Nora Marsh Supermarket has come as no surprise. The energy went out of it years ago, when Whole Foods set up shop in the same neighborhood. Then Kroger moved in across the street, and gradually, the only people left shopping at Marsh were a few silver-haired people, and me.

I’ve been shopping at that store every week for the past 16 years. I’ve witnessed its various attempts at renaissance, remodeling and restocking with organic, local foods and produce. Then came the decline, as people’s food habits and tastes changed and other stores fit those needs more quickly, albeit not always more economically.

I liked shopping in a store that was intimately familiar—where I could jot down my list by aisle, where everything I needed was stocked, and where the clerks and baggers were consistent, week after week. The meat managers knew me by name and remembered our annual Memorial Day weekend order. I recall the time I left my change-purse in the basket of my grocery cart in the parking lot. I had driven home before I realized it was missing and raced back to the store. A bagger had found it and kept it for me. That was one of many kindnesses I observed from the staff over the years.

But there were also problems. No matter how much you’d insist on packing your groceries in reusable shopping bags, they’d often wrap your stuff in plastic bags as well, a real challenge for an aspiring environmentalist. Products that were once reliably stocked would suddenly disappear from the shelves forever, and newly introduced items were often not available. Recently, for many months, the shelves have been apocalyptically bare.

I started going online for some products I couldn’t buy locally, either at Marsh or at other stores. Scott tube-free toilet paper. Order in one click. Bounty decorated 2-ply paper towels. Click: order. A certain brand of hair spray. Fabric softener refills. The list continues to grow.

The Nora-Broad Ripple area has an embarrassment of grocery-store riches. We are not dealing with a food desert here. But we are witnessing the slow death of a certain kind of shopping and food consumption, at least in suburbia—the packaged, high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden kind. I’ve taken a certain amount of my business to farmers’ markets as well as to online. Not necessarily a bad thing. Just different.

Losing one’s grocery store is depressing. It’s like losing a friend. Nine-tenths of the stuff in my pantry, freezer and fridge has been bought at that Marsh. So I’ll be looking at a frozen pot roast and the milk that will expire on April 22 well after the doors have finally closed. There are no words of comfort for this loss, only the necessity to move on. We are privileged here to do that, unlike some neighborhoods that have lost their only store.

Now I have to decide how and where I’ll shop next, and who will get the ensuing 16 years of my loyalty. Because heaven knows—along with my Fresh Idea card—I do not like change.


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