Uber-collaborative renaissance parent that I am, I hit the supermarket at least once a week. The ostensible purpose of these visits is to stock up on healthy vittles for the kids, but I usually end up replenishing the daddy cache of string cheese and Dr Pepper along the way. It’s an almost mechanical routine at this point: I downshift my brain into daydream mode, which most often involves scenarios in which Eddie Van Halen drops by to jam, then take care of the heroic, quotidian business of carrot procurement.
Well, it used to be a routine. I arrived at my neighborhood grocery store the other morning to find it completely overhauled. The greeting cards were where the bread used to be. The bread sat aisles away from the peanut butter. The peanut butter had entered into a price-gun marriage with the spaghetti sauces.
There’s no other way to put it: This has fucked up my shit. Because I am a sentient being living in America in early 2017, I am getting used to an elevated degree of cognitive dissonance. But screwing with the placement of the Apple Jacks? This I cannot abide.
As fate would have it, that very afternoon a coupon for the new store in town arrived in the mail. And so it was that, for the first time in about four years, I ventured into a foreign grocery realm.
And totally dug it! Have you ever been to an Uncle Giuseppe’s megasuperstore? Probably not, because there are only seven of them. Nonetheless, I can’t recommend the experience highly enough: The aisles are wide, the lighting is bright but not harsh, and - this is key, given my inability to process a 10-feet-away relocation of dinner napkins - the products are arranged in a manner that aligns with time-tested tenets of grocery-store display. Also, they sell these chicken nibbler things that are so absurdly delicious that it prompted me to buy stock in companies that market dipping sauces.
Another thought I had, somehow unrelated to the nibblers: Why isn’t Uncle Giuseppe’s, or any other grocery chain, more invested in brand video?
I get the reasons why they wouldn’t be. There’s no true national grocery brand, with only Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s enjoying a presence in 40+ states by my calculation (and both catering to a very different clientele than most other markets do). Brand preference is almost certainly linked to proximity; nobody’s traveling 30 miles out of his way for items that are essentially fungible. Also, and my Uncle G’s debut speaks to this point, there’s no reason to screw around with video when you can mail-blast local homes with a $5-off coupon and achieve at least the same degree of brand awareness.
It still feels like an opportunity waiting to be seized. I’ll use my new nibbler dispensary Uncle Giuseppe’s as an example, because judging by the long lines at checkout and SUV death matches for open parking spaces they totally need my help. Like many other gargantuan stores, UG’s has a café-type area - now there’s a setting to be mined for suburban drama, especially if the local soccer coach resigns under mysterious circumstances. UG employs this dude to croon at several of its Long Island stores - what’s his deal? Or maybe walk us through the challenges of producing healthy, fresh prepared dishes that don’t cost $14 per entrée.
I shop at Target and Costco and Dick’s Sporting Goods because I enjoy the experience of shopping there. Maybe there’s a similar distinction to be made among grocery stores, especially in areas where there are multiple choices? I dunno.In conclusion, I got lost and disoriented at my old grocery store and couldn’t find anything else interesting to write about this week. Sorry. Will do better next time out.