The grocery that time forgot


As I get settled in my new apartment, I have been doing the usual neighborhood reconnaissance to determine where the closest shops and services are.  In the groceries department, the closest supermarket (about 3 short blocks) is a place called “C-town“.  I believe the “C” stands for “community”, as the stores are meant to be responsive to the needs of the communities in which they find themselves. If that is the case, this community needs food help badly. The vast majority of items they carry are processed, pre packaged crap I haven’t seen since the early 80s. There is a ton of space devoted to Little Debbie, and none devoted to any kind of decent milk or cheese product. The produce was sad (although it is winter in New York and this may be true everywhere). Here and there you would actually see things that tell you a little about the community, in the form of imported items from Mexico, and the cereal selection was mostly ok. A lot of things looked as if they had been sitting years and years on the shelves with little to no movement. It made me wonder about stocking decisions. Who makes them and how? What is the evolution of these things? If someone was stocking some product line since the 70s, let’s say Birds Eye (something we grew up, and whose products are truly horrible) for example,  what is the likelihood that over time they would stop stocking it? Do they notice buying trends decreasing or increasing for their products? Do they wait for the customers to demand a change?  Is it likely that in poorer neighborhoods people are less likely to bring these things up to the store owners? Do they just buy what is in the store because it is in front of them? Perhaps the owner is looking for the greatest profit margin. And I should mention that prices didn’t seem less here than in other parts of Manhattan. Whatever the case, it really makes you think about the total environmental picture of neighborhoods, and the variety of things that go into making a neighborhood a compelling place to live.


  1. Kelly says:

    I think store owners/managers buy what sells and what the customers can afford. We might want nice cheeses and lots of fresh produce, but if the vast majority of customers do not want those things or can’t afford them, then they won’t get stocked.

    Another problem is we have raised a generation or two or three of people who only know processed food because that is all they ate growing up–mac n’ cheese out of a box, hotdogs, canned green beans, and…..Happy meals. My kids had their fair share of processed food but we always balanced that with home-cooked meals with fresh vegetables as well as different kinds of food.

    Another problem is people aren’t learning how to cook now that Home Economics is a thing of the past. Even though Home Ec wasn’t always that great, at least it was something! Heck, there are kids who never learn how to use a knife and fork!

  2. PattyK says:

    Dude! Two choices that may be helpful to you. I lived at 112th St and Bdwy for several years before moving to LA. So I know two places that may be okay for you. It means shopping outside of where you live – but if you’re already on your way uptown anyway…what’s so bad about getting off the subway, walking a couple blocks to an awesome store, shopping and returning to the subway to go home uptown with great groceries???

    This may be out of your way, but if it’s easy for you to get off the subway at 130th and 12th Ave., THE FAIRWAY GROCERY STORE is primo guapo! Shop and then get back on the subway (or uptown bus) toward home. This supermarket is one of my favs in NYC.

    I used to live on 112th and Broadway and there was a small local neighborhood grocery right as you walked up the subway stairs at 110th and Bdway (can’t remember the name) that was outstanding (though small). Well stocked. You would love it.

  3. Mario says:

    Patty’s talking about Westside Market, at the corner of 110th and Broadway, which has excellent produce even in the winter. Should you want to head the other way, Gristedes (in my neighborhood) at 169th and Broadway also has a good selection, but Westside has a happy organic feel to it. You might want to try it out. Then there’s the rumor that Trader Joe’s might be opening up in the UWS.