While doing the weekly-ish grocery shopping at the Lakewood Whole Foods this morning, I realized that I am totally over Central Market, which used to be my favorite grocer.
First, a bit of context: Because we live in an area of town where grocers fear to tread, we have to drive a minimum of five miles to get to anything north of a dollar store. And, as demi-foodies, we figure that if you’re going to drive, you might as well go to one of the better stores — and in this gerrymandered burg of dry areas, part of that relates to the ability to buy hooch. We never much cared for the Greenville Avenue Whole Foods, so until it moved to the new store in Lakewood, that meant a drive to the Central Market on Lovers.
At first I thought we were going to the new WF more often just out of laziness because it was closer. But during today’s shopping expedition, I realized that I really am enjoying the shopping experience more. Here’s why:
- I have always resented CM’s “herding” layout: CM generally forces you to make your way through every section of the store. Even though there are a few secret-passage shortcuts, the general vibe is a fascist “You Will Look at Everything, Even If All You Want Is Some Milk.” WF has a more traditional store layout that allows me to shop as I please.
- There’s variety and there’s overkill: The scale of the WF, albeit large, isn’t as intimidating as CM. This is true even of larger WF stores like the one near my office. Yet there has never been a case where I couldn’t find what I wanted at WF, unless I was looking for obscure ethnic ingredients requiring a trip to a niche market.
- WF is more generous with samples, particularly cheese: Enough said.
- WF feels more human: When you ask a question at WF, the associate is genuinely helpful and will generally wander with you until you find what you need. And while the CM “bank teller” model of checkout may be more efficient, I prefer the more traditional version at WF. It feels like less of a machine.
- Staples: Even if it is all greenie stuff, at least you can buy some basic cleaners and paper goods at WF. Not so at CM.
I will give CM the edge in its couponing program. They deliver monthly coupons that are substantial — as much as $20 savings in one purchase, and often leading me to try things I wouldn’t otherwise. And there are things I find annoying at WF, not the least of which is their hybrid-car parking section.
I used to view CM as the model for a grocer — funny how a return to something more traditional can change your mind.