Life, Photography, Stories told

Photo essay: Pleasant suburban shopping

Please don’t revoke my man card, but I like to shop. Even a weekly trip to the grocery store delivers a dopamine rush. And when my weekly trip takes me to the big-box store — ohhh yes, I can spend an hour just wandering the aisles looking at things I didn’t come to buy.

Meijer

The big-box groceries are squeezing the local players out. Marsh is the last local chain standing. I seldom do my weekly shopping here, as the big boxes offer compelling prices. But I’m suspicious of the big-box meat. Hamburger shaped into a rectangle? Pork chops shot full of “15% of a solution?” No thanks. I prefer to buy my meat at a butcher shop, but it’s a special trip. Marsh’s meat counter is convenient and respectable, and so gets a lot of my business.

Marsh Hometown Market

But I wonder how much longer that Marsh will be open now that Walmart’s Neighborhood Market is in the area. It became my main grocery store the minute it opened last summer. It’s just around the corner from my home! And their prices are just too good to ignore. Marsh feels that pinch — since Walmart opened, I get a lot of direct mail from Marsh, sometimes with coupons for $10 off the total bill.

Walmart Neighborhood Market

My routine shopping is about more than groceries, of course. I fill my prescriptions at a CVS across the street from Marsh. That’s pretty much all I do at CVS — for the non-pharmacy items they carry, pretty much any other store beats their prices. I used to have my color film processed here, but they took out their 1-hour lab a couple years ago. What a sad day.

CVS/pharmacy

I’m not as crazy about shopping for hardware and home-improvement items. Maybe it’s because I’m usually trying to quickly pick up one or two things so I can finish a project. The little Ace Hardware near my home closed ten years ago, so I switched to a smallish Menards that was only a little farther away until it, too, closed. I’m left with Lowe’s and Home Depot, both longish drives from home, both enormous and bewildering. Woe betide me when I need something small, as I did this day. Three different employees scratched their heads over where I might find the thing I sought. I ended up searching for a half hour. In a big store, small items might as well be invisible.

Lowe's

I choose Lowe’s over Home Depot because this Goodwill Store is next door. Sometimes they have an interesting old camera for a few dollars. Believe it or not, I bought my favorite suit here for $8.

Goodwill Store

This Walmart Supercenter is around the corner from Lowe’s and Goodwill. When I went through my divorce, I lived on next to nothing and this Walmart’s prices let me afford to feed my family. In those days, this store was filled with rude staff and angry customers. I hated shopping here. But then Walmart built a new Supercenter nearer my home, and overnight this Walmart became orders of magnitude more pleasant. I can’t explain it. It’s like all of the problems migrated to the newer Supercenter. It’s a war zone over there.

Walmart

When the shopping is over, I sometimes treat my car to a wash. Works Wash please, and no, I don’t want the extra-cost tire shine. This gives me a few weeks’ respite from a super annoying body squeak my car has developed. It was a tip from my mechanic, who said that an underbody wash is a good, cheap lube job.

Crew Carwash

It feels good to drive a clean car. And it feels good to wrap up the routine weekly shopping.

Photographed July 14-28, 2015 with my Agfa Clack on Ilford Pan F Plus 50 film.

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15 thoughts on “Photo essay: Pleasant suburban shopping

  1. I guess this makes me your shopping opposite. I could spend hours browsing through a hardware store or big box home center, but am more of a surgical grab and go guy for other shopping.

    On the car wash, I can claim to be a Mikes/Crew customer longer than any of your readers because Mikes opened its very first Express location near my home in Fort Wayne in the mid 70s. It has been my go-to carwash ever since.

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    • I suppose I could spend hours at Lowe’s too, if I wasn’t usually in a rush to get back home to complete whatever project my trip interrupted!

      Mikes/Crew was all new to me when I moved here, but they’re the best automatic car wash I’ve ever used.

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  2. Bill Bussell says:

    I quit shopping at CVS when tobacco sales ended. Mind you, I do not use tobacco. It is unhealthy, although my cigar- and pipe-smoking grandfather lived to 87. I do not like the goody-two-shoes CVS statement that they are a health store while they continue to sell alcohol. They did get a gold star from Obamacare for losing tobacco. I would also stay away from certain stores when daylight ends.

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    • I hear you. I’ve decided that if I chose not to shop stores that do things I don’t agree with, I’d be left with nowhere to shop. So I shrug my shoulders and move on.

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  3. We’ve been going through a similar battle in the UK, with the big Superstores wiping out the locals. Through in the Internet, and the retail business today is a minefield. I’m as guilty as the next person. Although I try and use the local butches and bakers, it’s hard when I’m at work during most of their opening hours. And much of my non-grocery shopping has migrated online these days. I really don’t have the time to spend 30 minutes looking round the hardware store for a 6 and 3/4 inch screw when Ebay is a click away. OK, I do have time, but it’s time I’d much rather be using for something else.

    As I was reading this and looking at the photos, I was really curious about the camera and film used. They are very obviously film but I didn’t guess they were from the Clack. You’ve managed to get really great results from such a simple camera.

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    • When Amazon perfects one-hour drone delivery, I’ll send out for that 3/4″ screw rather than run up to Lowe’s for it.

      Most of the local butchers and bakers have been gone for 30 or 40 years here. The only one I know of that’s left standing is Kincaid’s, and I go over there whenever I can for meat. They’re not too terribly far out of my way. But the one bakery I know of is way on the other side of town and I never go. While on the one hand I lament the loss of the local businesses, I have to admit — Meijer is just sooooooooo convenient.

      The Clack is a great camera. Full stop. There’s no “managing” to get great results: there’s just pointing and shooting. And as you can see, the Clack really liked the Ilford Pan F Plus 50. ISO 50 is about what this camera was built for. Last time I shot it, I used ISO 100 film and the exposures weren’t bad, but they weren’t perfect. These shots on the Ilford required very little Photoshoppery to make them look outstanding.

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  4. Steve Miller says:

    Oh, boy. Where do I start?

    I’d feel a lot more sympathetic for Marsh — and maybe I should, considering those still employed there — but the former CEO exercised a whole lot of personal bad judgement, and ran a thriving chain straight into the ground. It only continues to exist (in somewhat wobbly state) because a capital venture group thought it could still make some money from it… but the house brand is now “Food Club,” which strikes me as amateurishly symblamatic. The store nearest me is dark, depressing, disorganized… With a new Meijer in the area I expect this store (my wife calls it “the ghetto Marsh”) isn’t going to stay around very much longer.

    Yes, the Marsh meat department is a strength, because they actually do some butchering. Too many chains reduce this function to stocking coolers with meat that was packaged someplace else — like Ft. Dodge, Iowa. What you see is what you get…

    CVS, even with its ridiculous couponing, is expensive. The coupons convince my wife to shop there. Maybe I just don’t get how they work.

    Lowe’s, like both Home Depot, and Menards, supports red state politics. They care little for employees and are focused solely on forecasted numbers and goals. Depending on individuals within the stores, you may get great service (but don’t worry, when the goals say “cut employee hours”…) or, like the recent Sears appliance ad, you may spend hours looking for someone wearing the company vest.

    And that Walmart that provided so little (and so surly) service? That’s because staff was cut so hard that there just aren’t enough employees or enough hours to fulfill basic store functions, let alone provide niceties like customer service.

    I limit my shopping in in the Target, HD, Lowe’s, Menards stores. I won’t even walk into Walmart, unless there is absolutely NO other option. I’m mostly shopping at Meijer, but I’m training a very cynical eye on them.

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  5. Don’t revoke my man card. I’ve never heard that before. I love that. :D

    I’ve got a buddy in Connecticut who swears he’s never entered Walmart. Wish I had that kind of principle. They suck me in all the time. I was there just yesterday. I noticed recently they ship, too, so now I’m putting together three book cases I bought from them online delivered right to my door. But like you, I don’t tend to buy food there, especially meat.

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    • Srsly? I totally stole that line.

      I understand all the arguments against shopping at Walmart and the other big boxes. I do feel some dissonance when I enter. But I enter anyway.

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