|I've been missing the comfort of shopping at a store I know well. This is Stong's after it closed but before the bulldozers moved in.|
|Partway through demolition, you could still see where certain departments were.|
|This is what the store looks like now; only one partial wall to the far right is still standing.|
|The new Stong's just up the street is supposed to be open before the end of the year. We'll see.|
As you might have guessed, I'm missing Stong's, the grocery store where I shopped for four decades. Forced by its closure to try different stores in the area, I have found them pathetic substitutes. Their clerks may be nice, but they're not my clerks. There may be logic behind their organization of shelves, but it makes no sense to me. And their stock is not convincing. Where are the 20 brands of canned tomatoes I'm used to seeing? The yards of shelving devoted to different kinds of yogurt? The meat department with butchers in bloody white aprons hacking away in the back?
With Stong's, I knew its quirks, I knew its aisles. I knew where to ferret out that special bread for dinner guests. I knew which clerks could pack and which would make a cock-up of eggs at the bottom and milk on top. I knew not to go there Sunday morning, when everybody in Dunbar rose simultaneously and went out to do the weekly shop. And I knew that you could shop there three days before Christmas but not two: that meant an hour-long wait in an aisle-long lineup.
More than anything, this enforced suspension from Stong's has made me treasure my regular landmarks -- those places I can go knowing exactly what to expect without any nasty surprises. Sometimes, a person needs a sense of stability and order. Sometimes a person needs to be able to do an entire weekly shop on automatic, the brain almost completely disengaged.
Meanwhile, the bulldozers have eviscerated my old shopping mecca, leaving its guts exposed to whoever wants to see where the meat and produce departments once stood. But two blocks away, the new Stong's is rising like the phoenix. I will be glad when it's ready for shoppers so I can learn its aisles, pick from its 20 brands of tomatoes and reacquaint myself with its clerks. I can't wait to be able to park my brain at the door of a grocery store again.