From Corner Store to a Block of Market

Jules

Formerly the home of Jule’s Market (and Jule I think).

A few weeks ago John Howell (one of my favs) wrote one of his “10 things not to do” posts on the subject of grocery shopping. Having violated several of those rules, I dredged up my notes on grocery shopping. I love it when other people decide what I should write about.

Up until the time I was about 10 years old, we lived amongst a handful of neighborhood markets. There was Jule’s, B&I, Gloria’s and Baldini’s. Jule’s was my favorite, because they had a very large candy display that was as easy to navigate as it was enticing. Penny candy was on the top shelf. Below that were two shelves of candy that sold for a nickel a piece and below that were the premium items – the Nestles, Hershey and other candy bars that were a dime each. My mother would often give into my “can I borrow a dime” pleas, so I could buy 10 pieces of penny candy. I preferred that to a single Mounds Bar.

I remember when the hard part was deciding between banana and cherry.

I remember when the hard part was deciding between banana and cherry.

Sometimes I went to Jules just for candy or a Popsicle but sometimes I was running an errand for my parents. “Run up to Jule’s and get a pound of chipped ham and a pack of Pall Malls” or “Go down to B&I (brothers Bernie and Izzy) and tell Bernie I want four nice pork chops, and a pack of Pall Malls.” Mom and Dad knew which store had the best meat, which had the products they liked, which were running sales and whose bread was likely to be fresh. They all had Pall Malls. We had supermarkets back then, Giant Eagle and A&P, but the corner market filled an important void, especially the ones with a good butcher.

Convenience took over my life when I arrived in Morgantown, WV for college. I lived on a hill above campus, and at the base of the hill was a Thorofare Market – yes, that’s how they spelled it. For most of my first year in that apartment I didn’t have a car, so I bought everything from the Thorofare. Did Thorofare have good meat? The right brands? Good prices? It didn’t matter, I wasn’t going anywhere else. I did my laundry at a grimy place in the next block. When you have to walk, your options are limited.

I let proximity guide my grocery store selection for as long as I was buying food. I was a pretty good cook, but a lousy shopper. I bought dinner on the way home from work; a clear violation of John’s rule – no shopping while hungry.

Fortunately, I stopped shopping for food about 32 years ago when I got married. Not only could my wife cook way better than me, she knew how to shop and she shopped for ingredients, not dinner. She could probably feed our family of three for a week on the amount of money I would spend in three days, two if I was hungry.

I say “fortunately” because 32 years ago supermarkets weren’t all that super. They sold groceries, but they didn’t fill prescriptions and process mortgage applications. You might pick up a bunch of cut flowers, but you went to a florist when you wanted something nice.

The other not-so-super thing about markets 32 years ago was that they were smaller because there were fewer things for sale. Oh, they sold the same stuff, but there were fewer choices – way – fewer – choices. I won’t go too deep into this subject, but if I were 10 today and my dad sent me to the store for “Triscuits” I’d never get it right. I’m 60 and I wouldn’t get it right if my wife sent me for Triscuits today. ‘Cuz there’s eight million kinds of Triscuits! And soup, and bread and English muffins – seriously, there’s an English – Muffin – Section in our grocery store! I probably couldn’t even get the right Pall Malls today.

My wife shops at the smallest market around here but her favorite small supermarket went out of business about 10 years ago. Chester’s was as close as it came to B&I and Jule’s in Connecticut.

I did the grocery shopping once when my wife was on crutches and in a cast with a broken foot. I went to Chester’s, with a list and I still screwed up. I bought two tubs of ketchup because they were on sale “2 for $3” – the Mrs. explained that “they are always two for $3.” I was turned away from the checkout because:

That’s not the brand of soup your wife buys.”

But, this is way cheaper.”

There’s a reason. Go back and get Progresso, like it says on your list.”

The butcher was the best:

What are you looking for?

My wife wanted pork chops but I don’t see any.

Don’t worry, I’ll cut some nice ones for her. How’s she doing with that foot?

If I were shopping for myself these days, I’d be a prime target for the new trends in supermarkets. I’d either be shopping in the “Man Aisle” or I’d be buying nothing but prepared food.

The man aisle is actually a pretty good idea: put the chips, dips, salsa and barbeque sauce right next to the beer. Toss in a few brands of toothpaste and a razor or two and we’re good to go. The prepared food might be a problem though. Ever since Brad Lewis shared this article, I’d rather avoid buying the food that is about to spoil prepared food. It makes sense for the store, “cook and sell a chicken today or throw it out tomorrow” easy-peasy decision there.

This weekend is Memorial Day. I’ll be at the grill for at least one fine meal. I wonder what my wife is going to buy.

About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
This entry was posted in Family, Humor, Nostalgia, Shopping and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to From Corner Store to a Block of Market

  1. GP Cox says:

    Give up Dan and follow the list next time! Geez… :roll:

    Like

  2. Love this post and the chuckles I had reading it. When we first got married, we lived near a small grocery store, Garretts, just like you described above. Besides good meat, they made their own ham salad. Man aisle – now we need a woman aisle with ice cream for stress, dark chocolate for survival, make up so we look good while we’re eating and wine to wash it down. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When pressed for time, The Mister will go to the store for me. Sometimes this backfires, because he will not buy the wrong thing. He will call me and ask me umpteen questions to insure that. I’m glad he cares enough to be sure. He will learn it all, he’s already learned so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I will do both. Actually, I will do all three (even though there are only two) I will all and ask a bunch of questions. I will still buy the wrong things and I will buy the stuff you didn’t ask for but I think is too good to pass up – Ketchup, 2 for $3 what’s not to love. Thanks!

      Like

  4. Randall says:

    Beautiful post, truly encapsulates where we are going wrong as a society. I can think of one mom and pop grocer in my city and you’ve just encouraged me to go there next time we need ingredients.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s really lovely that the people at the market know your wife so well that they can correct you on your grocery shopping! The convenience of big supermarkets is all well and good, but you can’t beat the personal touch of a small, independent place. We had a butcher back in London who would advise us on what cut of meat to get for what dish and gave us tips on how to prepare it if we were trying something new… It was so nice!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Celine. The big market is only convenient if you need everything. If you only need a few items, it can be a frustrating place to shop. I miss the small shops.

      Like

  6. OH gaul, being turned away at the check-out because you didn’t get the soup your wife buys= PRICELESS! :)

    The two neighborhood stores you described took me right back to my childhood and Milt and Judy’s; a Mom and Pop store which was the first convenience store, and in the back they ran hamburger joint. They made the best Milkshakes! I spent my whole weeks allowance at their store on Milkshakes, and candy for a couple of years. Well, right up to the day we moved half way across the state.
    When I went to say good-bye the day we were moving, and buy some candy for the road we all got a bit teary. I’ve never found another shop like that one, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Deborah. Yeah, being sent back was bad, but at least I got the job done (with a lot of help). That store sounds wonderful. No ice cream at Jule’s, just frozen bars. That would be hard to leave. We moved away when I was 10. There was a store in the new town, but farther away from home, more expensive and the woman who ran it was mean.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. bikerchick57 says:

    My dad was an A&P store manager for many years. I think I have a photo of him in front of the meat case. Thanks for the grocery store memories, Dan. As for shopping, well best you stay home and get that grill fired up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Mary. We took my grandmother to A&P every Friday night. She wasn’t much of a cook, not many ingredients being bought. The thing I remember is the coffee grinders right next to the check-out lane. I’m a pretty good shopper today, if properly armed with a list.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bikerchick57 says:

        I was in a hurry to comment yesterday, so I’ll expand on it a little bit. My mom and dad met at an A&P in Milwaukee as they were both working there. Then my dad was transferred to my hometown of Waupaca and that’s when he proposed to mom. Dad managed what seemed like a big store when I was growing up and now it seems so teeny tiny when I drive past the building on rare occasions. Thanks for the memories, Dan, and happy non-shopping to you!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dan Antion says:

          Yeah, when I took my daughter to Pittsburgh to show her where I grew up, the building in the picture above didn’t seem large enough to have been Jule’s Market. By the way, I had to do a quick search on Waupaca. That seems like a nice place to grow up.

          Liked by 1 person

          • bikerchick57 says:

            I appreciate NOW growing up in a small community of about 3,700. Back then, as a teenager, I couldn’t wait to move to a larger city. Even though it’s a big tourist/summer area with the Chain of Lakes, I tended to be bored. Not much to do in the winter and summer was usually swimming in the lake and hanging out with friends. Today, I would love to have that “boring,” laid-back life ;-)

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Dan Hennessy says:

    So true , so true . Reminds me , especiallly , of my college days walking to the SantaGlen Market , a few blocks away on the corner of Santa Monica Bl. and Glendale Bl. They sold odd brands , but , hey , as you said……………….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sammy D. says:

    A Man Aisle ??? So what you’re saying is it’s women who want all those choices in the other aisles???

    True story – Hub thought about scheduling knee replacement surgery last Nov and I thought about me still in constant neck pain, having him as a patient AND me having to do the grocery shopping he usually does. I suggested he wait till this Nov when I hope to feel well enough that I can nurse him AND do the shopping without murdering my patient or having a nervous breakdown in Aisle Three. He thought that was a good idea.

    Our corner store was Gus’s. A quarter was enough to cover Mom’s bread and my penny candy but sometimes I came home with my candy and forgot to buy bread.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I’m imagining you showing up without bread :) Don’t blame me for the Man Aisle, it isn’t my invention and, none of our local stores actually have one. They appear to have chosen Veggie/vegan aisle instead.

      I did grocery shopping for my daughter earlier this year when she was recovering from surgery. It took forever because I didn’t know the layout of the store. I can understand not wanting to have the melt down.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Elle says:

    First World problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. cardamone5 says:

    Go back and get the Progresso…classic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      The people in that store were like family. My wife would wait in line for “her” checkout lady, even if the other line was shorter. We stopped in on the way home from the orthopedic and walked her in on crutches. They all knew what was coming when I showed up with a list.

      Like

  12. Great story as usual Dan. I know all about how you feel at the store. Oh before I forget, thanks for the shout out on the Top Ten. Anyway, when the top ten ran I git a comment from someone who felt I was less than honest when I said I had no talent for shopping. They figured it was a typical male relegating duty to a spouse that the male didn’t want to do. You have made my point. My spouse has made my point. Sometimes we all have to recognize our weakness and let the stronger do the chore. My spouse never makes classic “Progresso” mistakes. I do all the time. Loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Here’s a tip…stick to the list. It’s written that way for a reason. Don’t have an independent thought -and that’s exactly what I tell hub the very few times he’s ever shopped while I’ve been sick. I’m extremely detail oriented. Get exactly what I tell you to get; nothing more, nothing less. He’s learned to call if there is any question, and that works out just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Glynis Jolly says:

    Have you noticed any social clubs developing at the grocery store? Here in my little town, Wednesday is double coupon day. This brings all seniors in to shop. The aisle are jammed with old folk making small talk with others they haven’t seen since Sunday at church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Our town runs a senior shuttle that goes to the store on Tuesday and Thursdays. I’m not on it (yet) but I knew a guy that drove the shuttle before he died and it sounded like quite the social session.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. That’s a plot from the food industry to offer all those same products in so many varieties. Like you I shopped for my parents at a tiny grocery store that sold everything but cigarettes. My dad’s Gauloises were sold next door.
    I was in awe of the huge supermarkets when I arrived in the States. Not always for the good reasons! The size of the products was a real shock. A yogurt container was more than three times the size of a French one. And the ice cream selection was unbelievable! Nowdays it’s more boring and I favor small shops whenever I can. And farmers market for fresh produce. Fun post, Dan, and as always very informative too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for the kind thoughts Evelyne. I agree, I think this is a plot. I like small stores. If I can get it from our local hardware store instead of the big box, I will. I’ve only ever known US sizes, but I understand that they are large by comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hilarious and nostalgic. Oreos are the one mainstay. There in much the same packaging for as long as I can remember. They even carry them in drugstores now. Whenever I want to feel 10 again, all I need is oreos. I have never heard the chip aisle call the Man aisle, but I can see your point. I think my hubby lived on Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies before I took over the kitchen. I can’t stand them, so the poor man is always buying them on the sly, and I pretend I don’t see them on top of the fridge.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. loisajay says:

    Turned away at the checkout?! Oh, that made me smile. Such a great post, Dan. My husband would never even consider doing the food shopping!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great post. In India the concept of supermarkets grew only after 2000-01. Early supermarkets that entered the market were selling groceries at a higher price than a regular grocery store. Their target audience was the sophisticated and upper-middle class. Almost a decade later, today supermarkets are targeting the low-middle class customers. Supermarket brands like D-Mart and Big Bazaar (literally means Big Market) now offer groceries and food items at lower rates than regular grocery stores trying to lure more customers. In India, the focus is more on offering products at low price than offering a shopping experience. However, when you head to bigger malls, you will find supermarkets that cater to those who own BMWs and Benz.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for the comment Sharukh, I love learning about the way things “really” are in other countries. The largest market around us has all the convenience factors but the prices are higher than the smaller market my wife shops at. You think you’re saving time because they have everything, but it takes longer to get through the store, the prices are higher and they are experts at staging products to encourage you to buy more than you came for,

      Like

  19. Paul says:

    Thinking about grocery stores makes me think about how one of my first big responsibilities as a kid was walking up to the nearest one and doing the family shopping. I still try to do it as efficiently as possible, to the point of grouping items on the list so I can move through the store with as few trips back and forth as possible. Hate having to criss-cross when I forget something!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Wendy Brydge says:

    “That’s not the brand of soup your wife buys.” Lol! That’s just priceless. Such a great post, Dan. For me, making out the grocery list is the best part of shopping. Because me and lists…? I love lists. I’ll put “make a list” on my list of things to do! And I’ll often do a “rough copy” for my grocery list. Jot down things during the week, go through the flyers, and then organize it all on the “good copy” by store and section. And also in the order of stores I want to shop in. Start at one end of town and work my way to the other. Start at the top of the list and work my way down. It’s all about efficiency.

    I think I may have a problem…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      “I’ll put “make a list” on my list of things to do! ” – Um, Wendy, you might have a problem indeed :) That’s so funny, though because I love lists as well. That’s why I love Trello. I have so many lists on Trello it’s scary. I’ think I’d be OK, if I was the one doing the shopping or the cooking on a regular basis. Being the “now and then” guy for both leaves me at a permanent disadvantage. I “shop” at Target every other week and they keep moving the stuff I buy – AND I BUY THE SAME STUFF! How the stores conspire to defeat me in the shopping process will be the final post in this series of shopping rants, maybe in late June.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Peter Nena says:

    I’ve enjoyed this one, Dan. I am a lousy shopper myself. I always forget stuff, buy the wrong brand, or a completely different thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Jill's Scene says:

    Hi there Dan, I’ve been laughing about this post ever since I read it a few days ago. We have had similar challenges in our house when it comes to delegating the supermarket shopping. However, things have improved since the advent of the cell-phone. At first I’d be busy at home doing my thing while he was running errands and there would be two, maybe three, calls from him while he tried to decipher my writing, find his way around the supermarket, and make those all important choices. These days I usually only get one call per trip – we’re on the up and up, down here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I think “finding his way around the supermarket” might be the worst part. If I knew where everything is, I think I might do better. I guess that comes with time, but I seem to go from side to side like a duck in a shooting gallery. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Pingback: The Sunday Wrap: May 24, 2015 | The Seeker's Dungeon

  24. Ellen Hawley says:

    How wonderful that there are people in the store who know who you are and what you (or more accurately) your wife wants.

    Like

  25. dweezer19 says:

    Haha! Loved this Dan. When I was young it was me and my girlfriends walking up to Buster’s Supermarket on the main road for a loaf of bread or to the Rexall Drug store for makeup and to peruse the new Teen magazines….ahhhhh those were the days. I’ll never be able to look at Peanut M&Ms candy again without a tear in my eye. And boy do I miss real original Taco flavor Doritos! Time for you to catch up in the shopping arena though. My hubby is a savvy shopper these days now that he is retired. Of course he always did like to grocery shop. Trouble is so do I, so it is a contest at times. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I used to enjoy shopping at the drug store almost as much as the five and ten and the candy store. They carried a great selection of school supplies. I always had a weakness for new pens and mechanical pencils :)

      Liked by 1 person

  26. dweezer19 says:

    Of COURSE you did. :D! We also liked to get trinkets. There was a jewelry section and we always were buying cards…..I can still see the shadowy light in the drugstore, almost no overhead light……

    Liked by 1 person

  27. There are still a lot of small grocery stores here in Ireland, but the large supermarket chains make it difficult for them to compete price wise. Still, you can’t beat that personal touch that small establishments give. Our local butchers could open restaurants, they know that much about cooking meat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      A good butcher is one of the things it seems we lose first in the supermarkets. The meat seems mostly to be prepackaged and nobody really seems to be able to give advice. There are some grocery stores with very good meat counters, but they don’t have much of a selection of other items.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I prefer to buy our groceries as other never get right. My husband is the worst he falls for all signs and usually the are not good buys. Thanks for the visit and the follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Pingback: The Sunday Wrap: May 31, 2015 | The Seeker's Dungeon

  30. reocochran says:

    My brothers and I would go to a polish market with bottles we collected from suburban houses being built. Penny candy and a pop were things we enjoyed buying :)

    Liked by 1 person

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