Posts Tagged ‘food’

Ode to the corner store

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Greater Downtown seems awash in supermarkets these days, including new stores at Eighth & Madison, Third & Pike, Westlake & Denny, and Fifth North & Mercer. You’re always near one…except in poor ol’ north Belltown. We’re truly the gap in the Downtown supermarket smile.

One stop shopping

The thing is, as a resident of the area, I don’t really care. North Belltown is corner store heaven.

That doesn’t mean dives plastered with cigarette posters that mostly sell chips and six packs. I mean places that not only sell cereal, but several kinds. Places with extensive ice cream collections, and everything you need to make cookie dough. And frozen calzone. And plenty of sauces. Plus a few kinds of fruit and vegetables, because one serving of those can remove a lot of guilt. Actual groceries.

The real value is convenience. For one, there’s no line! I’m always astonished at the waits people tolerate at supposed “high end” supermarkets. Two, getting there probably takes one or two minutes.

Ok, so the prices tend to be…somewhat high. But isn’t your time worth something? And you’re generally supporting a small owner-operator, like the family that owns my favorite store.

If the choices get a little repetitive, there’s another corner store advantage — Belltown has many of them, and each has different food! The one a block west might have apples and pepper jack cheese, while the one a block north has pesto and pears. And let’s not forget that we corner store shoppers like takeout places too, and some of us binge at the Pike Place Market, so nobody is living on 100 percent corner store.

PS: Now I want cookie dough. Great.

News flash: Seattleites pay more at PCC

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Most readers probably won’t be too surprised to hear that food at PCC costs more than it does at Safeway. Buyers there put the premium on local, organic and whole foods and those just cost more than the Kraft Mac and Cheese and Frogurt you won’t see there.

Getting what you pay for

It probably also won’t come as a shock that the same brand of grocery store charges different prices in different neighborhoods. According to a P-I Article that ran today, a group of volunteers studying grocery store prices in different neighborhoods found a $31 split between identical items sold at the White Center Safeway and the Admiral Safeway in West Seattle.

That can probably be explained by a combination of land values and market factors, though company reps told the P-I that the company doesn’t alter prices by neighborhood.

But those two “identical” green peppers they compared weren’t actually the same. The story gets interesting when the surveyers comment on the quality of the food they found at the stores, a factor that they didn’t actually survey.

One person is quoted as describing the cheaper stores as “the place where food goes to die.”

I also expected the survey to find more of the FDA’s recommended 68 basket items missing from the cheaper stores. But those were actually relatively comparable, with four foods missing at that White Center Safeway, 1 at the Safeway on Admiral– and 5 at PCC. Trader Joe’s had 22 items missing.

Surveyers also noted some of the unhealthy placement they saw at cheaper stores– like a Hershey’s chocolate bar display standing in front of canned vegetables.

It’s a Wonderful Store

Monday, July 28th, 2008

When it opened four years ago, the Phinney Market was like a dream come true. The neighborhood grocery / deli was operated by local owners with a vision of serving fresh food in a “third place” atmosphere. In addition to bread-and-butter and eclectic groceries, offerings grew to include casual dining on Friday evenings at community tables and other neighborly events like BBQs and beer tastings.

Open long hours, it became a crossroads for residents and visitors. Nearby zoo employees got special discounts. Fresh flower displays, free treats for dogs, what’s not to like? This is what neighborhood commercial is all about: Walk, don’t drive.

A lot of neighborhoods would give up their parking spaces for this.

So when the e-mail hit our inboxes a few weeks ago that the store was in trouble, a large crowd gathered at “the last supper” incredulous and wanting to Do Something! But what?

Can this market be saved?
Can this market be saved?

The owner offered mea culpas. Opening a second store had distracted him from Phinney Market. Things fell apart, the shelves were getting bare and the wolf was at the door. Capital was needed and the question floated: When do shoppers become investors, or should they?

According to popular statistics, most small businesses fail. Other businesses had come and gone from this location, a classic one-story commercial building anchoring a small commercial strip in a residential neighborhood. We had petitioned the city for a pedestrian overlay zone to protect just this kind of anchor.

“Should we do more to save this amenity?” is the question now facing the neighborhood. A diplomatic mission bought a stay of execution and financial concessions owing to the willingness of the landlord, also a long-time local resident.