The bane of every nine-year-old’s existence is trips to the grocery store — at least it was for me. I remember every week, my mother would take me and my younger brother to the Kroger and it was perhaps one of the most miserable recurring experiences in my young life.
I didn’t have anything against grocery stores. As grocery stores went, the Kroger was nice, I suppose. It had groceries. Which at nine years old, was all it needed to have. Of course, the highlight of the trip was going to the bakery and taking a sugar cookie from the glass cookie jar as a member of the “Cookie Club.” For an organization with no formal rules, meetings or membership cards, it was a perfect fit for a nine-year-old.
Of course, visits to the grocery quickly went downhill. My mother would do actual shopping and it would seem to take forever. I would protest each visit with a whiny question, “Do we have to go down ALL the aisles?” Regardless if we needed something or not, we went down ALL the aisles.
So, imagine my shock and surprise when my own nine-year-old boy made a surprise announcement when I came home from work. With the widest smile and greatest enthusiasm, our child proudly announced that we needed to go to the new Kroger.
I asked him why he felt it was so important we go. His younger sister interjected, “They have EVERYTHING, Daddy!” Obviously, grocery stores have changed a lot since I was nine years old.
Later that weekend, with the family in tow, we went to the greatest wonder of the commercial world in our little town, the new Kroger. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones with the bright idea of going on a Sunday afternoon. The parking lot was full and this place was pretty packed.
Upon entering the store, I was immediately transported to a different world of retail sales. I saw clothing and jewelry. In a grocery store. Of course, the glam and glitter of high fashion and jewels did not capture the attention of my children. I was whisked away to the toy section.
At first I was puzzled. I thought to myself, “A toy section? Heck, when I was a kid, four feet of shelf spaced dedicated to crayons and coloring books would have passed as a good enough effort in the toy department.”
Well, back in the corner of the store, wedged between feminine products and the dairy section was the well-regarded toy section! Legos! Dolls! Games! I have found the reason why my children now love the grocery store. My children described every game and gadget in surprising detail, glowing and gushing at the new treasure trove of distractions that they have found. It was like they struck gold in California. Life may never be the same.
Of course, it was time to leave the toys and do some actual shopping. As we traveled the store, we were all in sheer amazement of what we saw. A functioning dining area offering pizzas, sushi, Chinese dishes, sandwiches. All of the sudden, the entire culinary world was on a crash course here in our hometown. The family decided that pizza was for dinner. As I was chowing down on a barbecue pizza, my mind was blown by the fact that I was actually eating dinner in a grocery store. I have never done this before. I didn’t know if this was weird or if this is the new normal.
We explored a cheese selection that was probably the size of Wisconsin. We saw a bulk food section that had at least a dozen varieties of almonds and another dozen varieties of almonds. There was a kiosk of olives. I simply thought there were two types: black and green. Oh, how I was mistaken.
During this trip, I ran into many friends and neighbors. To a person, we all had this feeling of shock and amazement. It was as if we have all been transported to something we have never seen, let alone heard about.
All I really know is that grocery stores have really changed since I was nine years old.
William (Bill) Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.