Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Looking for a really super market

When you're getting ready to move to a new community, there are a lot of things you need to get ironed out - what companies provide utilities, who your child's pediatrician will be, where the hell you packed the bath towels - but one that's often overlooked is: Where will you do your grocery shopping?

We're getting ready for the big move to the Milwaukee area next week and considering the grocery possibilities. Flagstaff is an easy grocery shopping town - you can get from one side of the city to the other in, at most, 15 minutes, so if one supermarket is out of Mini Oreos, you can always drive a few short minutes to another supermarket, provided you don't stop to think about whether Mini Oreos are actually a well-conceived product.

From what my wife and I discovered on our house-buying trip a couple weeks ago, there are a number of options in southeastern Wisconsin, one of which is "Piggly Wiggly". I'm not sure I can handle shopping at "Piggly Wiggly". I'm sure their merchandise is swell, with a full complement of produce, cheeses, Mini Oreo products, etc. But I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why an entrepreneur, with a dream of starting a supermarket, would name a grocery store "Piggly Wiggly". Maybe you could make a case if you were starting a supermarket that specializes in pork products. Or worms.
(The Piggly Wiggly people, for their part have this to say about their company's name: "[Clarence] Saunders' reason for choosing the intriguing name Piggly Wiggly® remains a mystery; he was curiously reluctant to explain its origin. One story is that he saw from a train window several little pigs struggling to get under a fence, and the rhyming name occurred to him then. {Mitch's note: Yeah, right.} Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, and Saunders' reply was, "So people will ask that very question." He wanted and found a name that would be talked about and remembered.")

Of course, considering the names of supermarkets opens up its own wiggly can of worms. You have your stores named after the founder (in Flagstaff alone, we have Basha's, Albertson's, and Fry's, which is itself a subsidiary of Kroger). There are stores that imply massive selection (the D.C. area's Giant Food and Denver's teeth-gnashing "King Soopers"), and those that imply bargains (Supervalu, for instance, which is apparently such a bargain because it saved money by only buying one letter E for its name). And then there are the names that may imply something, but I'm not sure what (Safeway - clean produce?, Sentry - guards at the doors?, Cub Foods - bear meat?).

We've generally shopped at Safeway here in Flagstaff, mainly because we generally shopped there in Washington, DC, before we moved here. And we generally shopped there in DC because we enjoyed giving the various Safeway stores their own nicknames. We typically shopped at the "Secret Safeway", a store whose back faced busy Wisconsin Avenue in the Tenleytown neighborhood and whose entrance was basically hidden from view. But occasionally, we stopped by the Singles Safeway, so named for its plethora of people trolling for dates (yes, a literal meat market). There was also the Soviet Safeway, which was always out of everything, and the Suburban Safeway, which was any Safeway across the Maryland or Virginia line. In Flagstaff, then, we've usually patronized the Student Safeway, which is the one closest to Northern Arizona University, and is filled with college students wearing flip-flops and shorts on 17 degree evenings. But sometimes we make it to the Cedar Safeway, which is located among pine trees on Cedar Avenue. Only rarely do we shop at the Safeway out by the Flagstaff Mall. I'd like to say that's because we've never come up with an alliterative nickname, but it's really because it's 6 miles from our house.

The two Basha's stores in Flagstaff also have nicknames - there's the "Big Basha's", so named because it's, um, big; and the "Hippie Basha's", so named because it takes 20 minutes to buy at gallon of milk, because at all hours, you're guaranteed to have to wait in line behind a half-dozen white guys with dreadlocks who are buying Fat Tire beer and American Spirit cigarettes and paying with a combination of pocket change, dollar bills, and credit cards.

But there are no Safeways (or Basha's stores) in the Milwaukee area. So we have yet to determine where we'll do our shopping. Auditions start in a few weeks. We do have a couple of alliterative options in Sentry and Sendik's. But maybe it'd be more fun to come up with nicknames for the area Piggly Wigglys.


Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on how far you are willing to drive. If Piggly Wiggly doesn't have Velveeta, you could try Food 4 Less (closest ones are in Rockford, Illinois), or A&P (New Jersey), Stop & Shop (Massachusetts), Sainsbury (the UK), or Cold Storage (Singapore).

A North Bethesda shopper

Anonymous said...

You know, there's also a chain of grocery stores in Wisconsin called Dick's. I don't know if Milwaukee has any, but have fun with the nicknames for those...

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention "Psycho Safeway," the store in each city that attracts all the grungiest, looniest patrons. The one in my hometown of Portland is right in the middle of downtown, near both the university and the park where all the homeless sleep.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mitch,
I grew up with Piggly Wiggly! Although my mom, not having perfect English, always used to call it "Piggy Wiggy."


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