Friday, January 10, 2014

First rant of a brand new year!

So exciting, you can taste it, right? This year's going to be your best yet. Ours, too.

But this is that once-a-year reminder that we need *you* in order to have good years. Actually, we need *you* in order to be here at all. Obvious? Maybe. But sometimes you know I can't pass up an opportunity to state the elephant-in-the-living-room obvious. (I feel like that about climate change, too, but that's another blog.)

Just to recap, we have survived the recent mutation of Bryant's to TOPS, and endured (and not, I'm sorry to admit, without a wee bit of dark words aimed their way) opening of the a Hannaford in Cairo. We sell tobacco and cheap beer and run a whole foods store, which effectively makes us delightfully hard to pigeonhole, but we are not immune to such tremors in our local economic ecosystem.

Like a convenience store, we sell gas, which I hate, but you don't. And we sell some of the best groceries in a 30 miles radius.

But here's the thing.

The reminder, if you will. That last part takes effort on your part, because I know it is easier and often cheaper for you to buy all of your groceries somewhere else. But if you do, this store will not survive. Now the last time I wrote something like that, many people dropped by to remind me that they buy lots of groceries here. (Thank you - we are incredibly grateful!)

I know that, but it is January, and with several long winter months to come, I am compelled to call the rest of you out.

I can't have everything you want, whenever you want it. That sort of vision of a store - the ones that sell you everything from cheap January tomatoes to 99cents-a-pound boneless, skinless chicken breast - cannot work for this store. Indeed that vision was created by the large groceries, who have all but swallowed up folks like us over the past decades. I can only provide what I get reasonably, which changes from week to week. I will always have fresh produce, but a whole lot more of it in the spring summer and fall, when I can get some of it locally. I try to always carry the fresh staples - lettuces, carrots, peppers, apples and bananas and the like - but there are lots of items that I sneak in when we can get them at great prices - crimini mushrooms, brussels sprouts, green beans, and pineapple.

I will always have meats, but most of the time they will be frozen. I won't sell you cheap chicken for two reasons: I will not sell meat that was raised under gruesome conditions, and I work pretty hard to get products like chicken and beef and pork locally. Local producers can *not* sell you chicken (or beef or pork) for grocery store prices and survive. Period.

I try to always carry all of the other staples - you can get beans and rice and pastas from me always. Jarred sauces and canned items, too. Tons of baking items, snacks and chips, granola and cereals.

And I will often bring in whatever you ask. (I'll try anything - I love being a buyer!)

In light of that, I really don't think my request is as ballsy as it may sound at first blush. Buy what I can get. Really. Maybe just try it for a few weeks, or maybe just once a month. But decide that you cook meals based on what is available, not based on what you might have been daydreaming about at lunch two Tuesdays ago. This is exactly how people used to eat - and it may be how we are going to be forced to eat again, should fuel prices start rising again.  While I can't say that you would be eating a 100 mile diet (not by a long shot), we are in this together, and as I convince more farmers to grow again, and I'm able to source more and more foodstuffs locally, you will be able to buy them.

And in the meantime, you'll be keeping your dollars local, and making sure we last another year. It really is a win-win. And even if you have to tolerate my less than clever, not-even-remotely subtle self, I think it is worth it.

Best wishes for a happy new year!

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