Monday, August 6, 2012

Supermarket or Mom and Pop - Which One Are You?

I admit it; I've never lived in a big city. I grew up no more than a couple of hours from Manhattan, but I never lived there. I've lived in a small city, a sprawling suburb and small town. So I could be wrong. But I've known enough city dwellers that I have a good handle on what it's like. So here's the question - where do you belong?

City life is like living in a giant supermarket.  

Everything you could possibly want is right there under one roof. It's noisy, it's crowded and it's a long way to get from one end to the other, but the aisles are straight and everything has been done to make it as convenient as possible.

Supermarkets are full of go go go energy.  There's music playing, lots of ad displays to keep your eyes busy, a sense of urgency to find what you want and check out. Supermarkets in the city have the added jolt of humanity; a long line of buyers snakes through a maze before the checkout area, waiting tensely for the next cashier to be available, springing forward as a number lights up as though someone else will take their place if they dawdle. Everyone's in a hurry; keep moving!

My one happy memory of a supermarket is buying each of my kids a Little Golden Book at each visit. It kept them entertained while we shopped and built an impressive library. I never got to know the staff. Most of them were young kids making a few bucks until they got a better job. But it was fun to discover new products, to see the wide variety of ethnic products, to marvel at the sheer volume of food under one roof.

Country life is a family grocery store. 

The selection is limited but you're bound to run into someone you know. If you're in a hurry, you'll probably be frustrated.  The butcher wants to know how your son's doing in Little League. The cashier has a great new recipe for that eggplant you're buying.

Sheldon's Market was in a little white clapboard building in Sharon Springs, NY. I wish now I'd taken pictures. When I was a kid, my parents used to stop there on our way to our little cabin up the road. When I had kids of my own, I became a regular again. Myron was still behind the meat counter and he remembered me as a little tyke with a long ponytail. Jimmy, his son, was a soft hearted bear of a guy with a black beard. He gave my kids coloring books that had probably been on the shelves since I was a child. They blew the dust off old wooden paddle toys and plastic cowboys and begged to play with them. My kids delighted in swinging around the metal column in the center of the hardwood floor, just as I had. They pretended to be skating across a choppy ocean where the floor dipped and rose, just as I had.

Sheldon's closed fifteen years ago, but they still remember.

Here in Woodstock we've got a little bit of everything.  Neighboring Saugerties and Kingston have the big supermarkets. They're not big by Manhattan standards, but they're big. And we've got Walmart. (Don't get me started).

The Hurley Ridge Market right outside town and Sunflower Natural Foods are somewhere in the middle - plenty of variety but small enough that you get to know the people there by name if you try.

Then there are places like Sunfrost (you'll meet someone you know, guaranteed) and Woodstock Meats. Try and shop at Woodstock Meats more than once and not get to know Kevin, his dad and their staff. Just try.

Many of our homebuyers in the Catskills spend most of their time in a supermarket life. They're looking for a breather, a chance to slow down.

Sometimes, they like it so much they just stay.


  1. I'm a bit of both. I've lived in London (UK) for more than 30 years and it's where I feel most at home. There are parts of the city which are unknown to me and, when I visit them, it feels like I am visiting a completely new place. I live in Hackney (in east London) and the part I live in feels villagey. When I get home from working in Westminster (the seat of government) Hackney feels quiet and soothing.


  2. I've finally chosen - and surprisingly, I like more rural than I knew. See new post.