So when the Harris Teeter grocery store in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood closed for remodeling almost a year ago, I decided to make a clean break.
For a long time, I’d been frustrated with what I considered an uninspired and unbalanced grocery selection: an entire aisle of laundry detergent, but very little in the way of fresh breads. Displays of furniture and home decor, but only a few varieties of peppers. More frustrating, I’d had no success over the years getting the corporate office to understand that Chanukah sometimes begins in November, so the candles need to go on the shelf before Christmastime.
I vowed I would patronize other stores exclusively, and challenged myself to stay out of HT.
Admittedly, I picked the perfect time to make this pledge, because in the last few years EarthFare, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods have opened stores in the Charlotte area. There are two Food Lion stores not far from my house. Target and Walmart have grocery departments, and even drugstores sell canned goods, frozen foods, and a few fresh dairy products.
Best of all, this was a good excuse to explore the Latin and Asian markets – and farmer’s markets – in the area. Instead of rushing into my usual grocery store for a ready-made rotisserie chicken and devouring it almost before it hit the table, I started really paying attention to what I was seeing on store shelves and in bins. It took a little planning.
I polled my friends, and they were pretty evenly divided between those who migrated to another branch of the same chain, and those eager to broaden their horizons. Sometimes my more intrepid pals would meet up and we’d carpool to Super G or Grand Asia. It was unnerving to realize how few of the beans, greens, and seeds we recognized.
So we experimented, with milk tea, Banh Khot pancakes, Korean barbecue sauce, a plethora of peppers. My friend Carol and I took a class to learn noodle-making. Not every dish was worth repeating, but it’s been anything but boring. And I’ve saved on my grocery bills, too, because the convenience of having a big, chain store nearby costs more.
Yes, I’ve drifted into Harris Teeter a few times in the last year, the way a person might meet up with an old flame for lunch, every now and then. So far, I haven’t felt pulled to come back and spend more time together.
But that might be about to change – because the new-and-improved Harris Teeter is getting ready to open at the end of May. Two stories tall with a dynamic design, its makeover is almost complete.
But will it be enough to rekindle our relationship? It’s hard to say. Maybe we’ve both learned something during our time apart. After all those years we spent together, giving it another go might be worth a try.