Monday, October 29, 2007

Meet me in the spooky aisle.

There are a few MEP-driven conversation topics that are unpopular with the hubby: my suspicion that I have adult-onset allergies, the 1893 World's Fair, real estate prices in Greater Cincinnati versus those in Chicago, and my absolute conviction that Kroger is the greatest grocery store ever. Great prices. Lots of variety. Double and even Super-Double coupons. Excellent Kroger-brand products (nice cold Big K red pop after a soccer game, anyone?), especially in the Private Selection line. There was even a time when my passion for Kroger cake was so intense that I vowed to one day order my wedding cake from Kroger. When the time came, I did not, but perhaps I deserve some credit for talking up their bakery all those years.

When I first moved to Chicago in 2001, I frequently bitched about my grocery store choices. I lived near a Dominicks but was never quite satisfied with it. My roommate/cousin had worked at a Jewel in high school (and had a soft spot for the store), but it was farther away and my few trips there never seemed to offer much cause for celebration. Indeed, there was one ugly incident when I tussled with an assistant manager at the service desk over the difference between Jewel brand frozen pizza and Jewel Chef's Kitchen brand frozen pizza. My thought was that if they were all strewn about in the same area of the freezer and had the exact same dimensions and packaging give or take the phrase "Chef's Kitchen," then they ought to all ring up with the same sale price. She thought otherwise.

I have come to realize that part of what fueled my disappointment with Jewel and Dominicks was my unrealistic expectation that smaller, more compact urban stores could compare to large, clean, airy suburban ones. Perhaps the Jewel locations in the suburbs are every bit as lovely as my personal flagship Kroger in Fairfield, OH. I haven't done the research.

Though it is small and decidedly un-airy, I have warmed to my Jewel quite a bit the past few years. There is one within walking distance of our house, and most weeks the bub and I are there three or four times a week. Conservative estimate. I know where most things are, NTB. I've almost mastered the Jewel sales cycles. I find the people who work there--many longtime employees at my Jewel--to be consistently friendly, helpful, and efficient. I appreciate its cozy size. Sure, after a trip home to the Nati, I may indulge in a little Jewel-bashing, but only a little. It's my grocery store now. Like my cousin, I have a soft spot for it. Dominicks still sucks.

But this time of year there is one glaring difference between Jewel and Kroger, a difference that would have been an absolute deal-breaker were I still eight years old. The Jewel does not have a spooky aisle. Nothing even close. Just an end cap with some Halloween candy on it. I don't know if Kroger still does, but when I was a little girl, our Kroger had a spooky aisle in the month leading up to Halloween. It was awesome. The aisle was lined with some kind of dark gauze or something so that the whole thing was dark. There was just enough light for shoppers to glimpse a mighty large selection of Halloween candy, the plastic pumpkin candy buckets, the cheap and thin costumes hanging there, and the face paint and other junk used to accentuate these costumes. I think they played scary music too. I'm not sure why, but it was so exciting to be in Kroger when the spooky aisle was up. If my mom needed to run down to Kroger for milk or whatnot, we begged to go with her. Once in the store, the child's refrain was predictable: "Meet me in the spooky aisle."

The question is whether spooky aisles still exist. What's your grocery of choice? Is there a spooky aisle or anything close? Do you have your own childhood memories of a spooky aisle? Doesn't the bub deserve a spooky aisle? I'm thinking yes.


Anonymous said...

Forward commerce has taken over the "Spooky" aisle at Krogers. There is an abundance of candy, seasonal decor, and costumes but no music and unfortunately no dim lights. I am afraid gone are the days when as a parent you can say, if you are good we'll go through the Spooky aisle. Not all progress is necessarily good. M

LAP said...

You could probably get arrested nowadays for leaving an 8 year old child (prime age for the spooky aisle as I recall) unattended in the spooky aisle, so just as well that it no longer exists. Not worth the jail time.

As for grocery stores, I am snobbish as to where I do my shopping. For example, there are two Kroger stores within 3 miles of my house, but one is merely an old IGA that was converted to a Kroger and thus is completely unsuitable. It may as well be this Dominicks you refer to as its aisles are not spacious, the lighting is dim, and selection limited.

I do go to Meijer from time to time despite the many times I have repeated to myself at the checkout that I won't be back again since lines are long and things always ring up wrong (and no scan right guarantee like they have at Kroger.)

Hamilton Mark said...

great post, i had forgotten about the spooky aisle.
i will admit I am not a fan of halloween however I do have two distinct memories. (1) the smell of candy inside of the pillow case after a successful trick or treat and (2) the speed skater outfit I wore with pride for several years before passing it on to hot carl. Although carl was never able to pick up the ladies like I was in that outfit

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can have a dark aisle in a grocery store anymore... I feel like it would lend itself to accidents, attacks, and lawsuits. That's my bucket of cheer for the holiday.

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