How to Kill a Grocery Store

Last year I was hosting a family gathering and needed simple appetizer to serve with the Bloody Marys. I decided on cheese straws–Southern morsels made of butter, flour, sharp cheddar and cayenne. I had never made them before, mostly because I hate touching flour, but I had a cousin’s recipe and charged ahead.

The first batch of dough wasn’t right…too thick. Off I went to the nearby grocery store–about 3 minutes away by car. I mixed up the next batch with newly purchased ingredients, and it wasn’t right either. Bottom line is I made four trips to the store before I got the cheese straws just right.

Evidently, my ineptitude at baking wasn’t enough to keep the store in business.

That homemade sign tells you a lot about the store. It was a Food Lion, the only one in town. In an area dominated by Publix, Krogers, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, Food Lion was decidedly down market.

In 1992, Food Lion was flying high–a darling of Wall Street for it low prices. Then ABC aired a news magazine segment alleging, among other things, that employees bleached outdated chicken and fish to remove odor and then restocked it and that rat bites were trimmed off of cheese. In 1997 a federal court ruled that ABC was guilty of fraud and ordered the network to pay $5 million in punitive damages.

It was too late though, and the damage to the chain’s reputation was irreversible.

However, ABC alone can’t be blamed for Food Lion’s failure in Franklin. It just wasn’t a nice place to shop.

It was fine for the basics, especially if you just wanted to run in 0n your way home from work. But if you wanted any cheese more exotic than pepper jack or a loaf of bread that wasn’t white or wheat, you were out of luck.

It was the kind of place where you bought a six-pack, some Skoal and a handful of Slim Jims. Not wild Alaskan salmon, organic blueberries and free-range eggs.

 I went in a couple of times after the closing was announced and the empty shelves were a reminder that this closing would be a a devastating blow to the employees, many of whom had obvious handicaps that will make finding another job difficult.

So now there’s a big, empty building in need of a tenant. Personally, I hope a huge liquor store moves in. Husband is hoping for auto parts.


Filed under At Home

16 responses to “How to Kill a Grocery Store

  1. it’s always sad to see a ‘neighbor’ slowly wither away… maybe a combination “liquor, auto parts, bread, milk, eggs, skoal and slim jims” place will inhabit the husk…

  2. I’m sorry, I was distracted by your delicious description of cheese straws. Add in hush puppies (which I was just introduced to last year) and I’m ready to start looking at real estate down south! Even absent the Food Lion, which as far as I can tell from your description matches our Price Chopper and/or Market Basket (nicknamed “Ghetto Basket”).

    Oh, and thanks for the comment at Ask. Much appreciated!

  3. Karen A

    I’ll go with liquor store, too. Or-maybe a JCrew.

  4. I second the liquor store option!

  5. I sometimes forget how lucky I am to be in an area where we’ve lost relatively few stores.

    I’m in favour of it being a giant cosmetic store. If it is, I’ll come visit!

  6. That is sad. But I love the name. Food Lion. What does that even mean? It’s senseless.

    People out here poo-pooed when Whole Foods opened but do you know what? They deliver a superior product. (Albeit, at a premium.)

  7. DF–Now that would be an interesting combination. Although it might be illegal to sell auto parts and liquor in the same store in Tennessee.
    Daddy–You’re welcome. As for hush puppies, if they’re good, they’re very good. If they’re bad, well, order another beer.
    KA–We need a liquor store on this side of town…especially since that one in your neighborhood went belly up.
    Sarah–I think we have a majority!
    Beth–The problem with Food Lion was that it was too plain…we’ve become increasingly fancy in these parts. As for large cosmetic stores, we’ve got ’em, so come on over!
    UB–Are you buried in snow? I love Whole Foods, I just can’t justify the cost. But there a some things that only they have, so I go there.

  8. I have issues with Whole Paycheck foods, too, one being the disparity between perceived and actual quality. Once I learned that they’re selling many of the same items as my local Ralphs–just packaged/labeled (and priced) differently–I gave up on them. I’m not into being bamboozled, not even by especially pleasant people in tidy green aprons.

    Oddly, though, when I lived in downtown Durham, W(P)F was the only supermarket close enough for a quick run. Gentrification gone wild. (Mind you, a quick run wasn’t ever actually possible, since they had five parking spaces. But man, the battle for those five spaces was fierce and focused. Yuppies can TARGET-LOCK.)

    There was a Food Lion down the street from my childhood home. It was finally murdered by a giant Kroger. The last time I was there, it was coughing up its last lung. Dim lighting, half-empty shelves, sticky floors, furry shelves in the milk cooler. Only the brave or suicidal would have bought anything other than–as you put so beautifully–a six-pack, some Skoal and a handful of Slim Jims.

    PS: You forgot Roman Meal. White, wheat, and Roman Meal.

    And what cheese straw recipe do you like? Do you mind sharing?

  9. Does Winn Dixie still exist?

  10. The Internet obviates all question asking.

    I now know Winn Dixie does still exist. I also know it’s not in TN. The closest you’ll get one is Alabama.

  11. SP–Oh yes…Roman Meal. Actually, our Food Lion wasn’t dirty, it just didn’t have a lot of what I wanted. (I gave up Skoal a few years ago.) As for W(P)F, I only go for things I really can’t get anywhere else…I would never buy a potato or onion there. As for the cheese straws, if I remember which of the four recipies I used actually worked, I would definitely share it with you. There are lots of recipies online…just be sure to use good butter and really sharp cheddar.
    Ellie–There used to be Winn Dixies in Knoxville where I went to college. I remember that they always promoted themselves at “the beef people.”

  12. Niece Whit

    I vote liquor store!

  13. I love “low market” grocery stores. Everyone is grouchy, the customers leave shopping carts all over the handicapped parking spaces, no one knows where any merchandise is, and all the food is covered in dust. They don’t even exist here in Utah. We’re missing out.

  14. They’re opening a Bloom here to replace a Bi-Lo, another “low market.” I remember when it was Food Town. It certainly made a lot of people in the town of Salisbury, NC very wealthy.

    I think they changed the name when they went into Virginia because they already had another chain called Food Town there.

    The Bi-Lo (another “low market” closed not too far from here and they’re putting in a Bloom, which I think is a healthier, fancier Food Lion, isn’t it? You’re right–ABC’s damage to them can’t be undone.

  15. Gee, somehow I managed to repeat myself –repeatedly!–in a comment.

    Are you in TN? When we lived in Memphis, there were none of the stores you mentioned. I’m not sure the marketing strategy for these chains is always wise.

  16. MM–We used to have a Bi-Lo here, but now it’s Aldi. We are in Tennessee, about 20 miles south of Nashville. Publix and Whole Foods have only been here about 5 years…Kroger has been here for ages. I’ve never heard of Bloom. Our other super upscale store is Fresh Market. You can walk out with a tiny sack after spending $50 in the blink of an eye!

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