Saturday, September 4, 2010

Grocery Stores - My Personal Meccas

When I was younger, I'd go to the grocery store with my mom and would never want to sit in the cart.  Why would you want to sit in the cart and be confined when trying to grab something you want when you can be walking around "shopping"?  Nowadays, I still love walking the grocery stores but have a different outlook and purpose.  I enjoy seeing the different choices in produce (fresh, frozen, seasonal, organic, local, etc.) and healthful and not healthful products.  What is sold at grocery stores is just so intriguing.  Whenever I travel, I always make sure to include a grocery store experience in my trip.  They're my personal meccas :)

Here is a snapshot of the main grocery stores that have touched my life: 
Growing up, we only shopped at one grocery store because we did not have a car and it was the closest one.  I got to know the A&P very well in the 17 years that I frequented the store.  I don't go as often now because the selection is not plentiful or fresh and I usually do have access to a car when I'm home now.

One of the first places I went to when I got to college was the Super Stop & Shop near the school. I don't remember what I bought but I remember thinking this place was humongous.  I would go often through my four years at Babson and had some fond memories of it including chasing my now-boyfriend through the parking lot because he took my sandal, and yes, we were in college :)

The other grocery store near the house I grew up is a nice sized ShopRite with fresh and reasonably produce.  It is the preferred grocery store for my mom and brother now.  I found out last week while leading a grocery store tour with a client, that this Shop Rite has a lot of great whole and organic foods (in additional to the more processed foods), including quinoa, lots of whole grains, all sorts of nut milks, a wide selection of milk, and better quality meat selection.  It's good to see more and more stores carry a wider array of products, especially a store in a suburb in NJ.
Shaw's and Star Market are the same company. There was one near my college but it was very underwhelming and I only remember shopping there if I needed something last minute.  When I moved to Boston 3 years ago, there was a HUGE Shaw's a block away. Needless to say, I was a frequent shopper.  What I loved especially about this Shaw's is that there was a sizable natural foods and products section and an ethnic section.  I usually spend a good part of my time shopping there just in those aisles reading the interesting ingredients and seeing the different items featured.
Upon moving to Boston, I fell in love with this very special store, Trader Joe's. It is a grocery store which started in California and has rapidly been spreading across the country and developing strong following. For those of you who have experienced Trader Joe's, you either love or hate it. Some people I know don't like the crowds and especially the cramped stores in the city. However, many like myself visit regularly to pick up items that cannot be found in other stores or get really great prices on products.  These include organic nut butters, organic almond milk, organic fruits including apples and lemons, cinnamon (they have the best cinnamon!), frozen desserts, and mixed nuts.  I can't shop exclusively at Trader Joe's but I couldn't live without it.

And last but not least...

Trader Joe's has a very strong group of fans but I'd have to argue that Wegmans has just as strong a following.  Wegmans is a grocery store that started in upstate NY. I first heard of Wegmans from my boyfriend who grew up down the street from it in Syracuse.  When I visited him during a break in college, I was finally able to experience Wegmans.  The one in Syracuse is very, very, very big.  There is a dedicated prepared food section - like a food court at a mall, kitchenware section, enormous amounts of fruits and vegetables including $1000/lb truffles, freshly baked breads and other goodies in the brick oven, your normal aisles of packaged foods, a large ethnic section, a sizable organic and natural products section and a wide selection of bulk goods. The great news is that there is one coming to the Boston area and now with a car, I can go whenever I want! 

So these are the important grocery stores in my life, how about you?  Do you just run in and out or do you like walking around like me?  I'd love to hear about it!

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