As far as problems go, clearly plenty of them are beyond tragic -- war, famine, genocide, and Charlie Sheen's life, for example. Still, at the moment I can't imagine a bigger nuisance than the fact that my local supermarket is closed for renovations for 16 long days.
Were it a larger store, Aspen's City Market (part of the Kroger chain) probably could have remained open for business while it undergoes an extensive (and badly needed) facelift. In fact, they tore up the floor around the same time that the last of the summer tourists hit the road, and yet steely local customers still managed to spend the past few months playing bumper-shopping carts on the torn cement ground that looked as if it had been modeled after an earthquake-ravaged building.
A few weeks before shuttering their doors, store officials also took away a third of the parking spaces in their lot to clear the way for the construction equipment (bringing the total number of spaces down to roughly three, not counting the two other spots seemingly always occupied by the genius who drives the über-mountain-town-practical Lamborghini), but grocery-hungry patrons still found a way inside.
Regardless, the store is now temporarily off limits to the general public, and the entire renovation won't be complete until June. Because such estimates are generally off by a bit, I'm guessing the produce department will be free of construction dust once and for all sometime around Columbus Day 2013.
While I recognize the existence of Clark's Market, I generally choose to ignore it unless I'm having a grocery emergency or find myself generously in the mood to spend on one meal the same amount that I can spend almost anywhere else feeding a village packed with "Biggest Loser" contestants (at the beginning of their season) for a month. If only the folks at Clark's saved their money on repainting the store and hanging up fancy signs, and lowered their prices instead. Who knew Tiffany & Co. was also in the supermarket business? (Ditto for Roxy's Market, by the way.)
Last Saturday, three days after the Aspen branch shuttered its doors, I made the 43.74-mile round-trip journey to the City Market in El Jebel in an attempt to buy enough groceries to last for at least a week. With a kid whose food fancies are whimsical at best, a husband with a metabolism faster than the speed of light, and a car that just hit the 90,000-mile mark, it's not a trip I prefer to take frequently or lightly. Once I arrived, though, I almost turned around and left. There were so many people, so much variety, I felt like slinking back into the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel with a wad of cash because I had nowhere to spend it, à la Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" (minus the hooker boots).
But what I miss most about the Aspen store besides its proximity and relatively low prices (and, apparently, its lack of culinary options) is the staff. For all the bad rap that chains and big-box stores receive, you'd never know that the store manager John and his employees weren't running a locally owned store. There's a lot to be said for a crew that cheerfully greets you by name (or at least by face), happily indulges your special orders, and anticipates and satiates your toddler's burning need to have her Barney doll adorned with endless fluorescent orange City Market stickers.
Unfortunately that warm and fuzzy feeling doesn't take away from the harsh sting of inconvenience that will course through my veins until they reopen on Nov. 13, at which time I will no longer be forced to pour an inordinate amount of time and resources into meal planning.
In the meantime, here's a list of requests for City Market to consider while they're in remodeling mode:
1. Quadruple in size. Or at least expand just enough so you can no longer stand with your arms stretched out and touch the front and back of the store at the same time.
2. Establish a frequent customer checkout line. You know, one that would prohibit people who forget something after they've unloaded the contents of their cart onto the conveyor belt and then take 20 minutes to run back and try to find it while you're standing behind their stuff praying the meter maid doesn't bust you for parking without paying on Cooper Avenue.
3. If you have a cut of meat one week, please be sure to continue stocking it the following week. It's awfully hard to plan a menu based on a Russian roulette selection, never knowing which round will be blank on future trips.
4. Bring back the samples in the bakery department, and not just in the morning. My 2-year-old remembers you had them there once and now looks for them again every single time. And every single time when they're not there, well, those are her shrieks of panic and distress you hear weekday afternoons at around 4:30. (But thank you for always buying her silence with a balloon.)
5. Keep a crossing guard in each aisle to direct traffic so the South American tourists understand that it's neither normal nor appropriate to walk nine people abreast.
6. My husband would appreciate the addition of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and crawfish to your repertoire (as would a few others, too, I'm sure).
7. Come back as a Trader Joe's.
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