I make no secret of the fact that I love grocery shopping. I do. I love it. Sometimes I prefer to go by myself so I can peruse the aisles as many times as I want without being rushed. I've even been known to go grocery shopping for people who hate it. While it makes them tense and anxious, it calms me and sometimes energizes me.
However, not every grocery store is created equal. In May of 2009 I flew into London to stay with my parents who were teaching there at the time. They were on a train returning back to London from somewhere, so I dropped my luggage off in their flat (oh man, I really want to go back) and headed outside towards Kensington. Where did I go first? Whole Foods. It's not like I'd never been to Whole Foods before it's just that the store in Kensington is the most celestial of all the Whole Foods kingdoms in the land. They have a station where you can mix your own granola, they have a café and bistro upstairs where you can get crepes, paninis, soups, anything. The layout, design and merchandising appeals to me I suppose. But what impresses me most, is at the top of the stairs, just by the bistro is a glass door that says “art department” on it. Inside you can watch all the graphic designers at work. Any place of business that highlights the importance of art in their success wins me over. So I bought a scone for me, some flowers for my mom (it was Mother's Day), and sat down in the lounge and enjoyed myself as I looked out at the double-decker buses and taxis passing by. I visited that Whole Foods often during my three week stay.
Salt Lake City is lucky enough to have a couple Whole Foods within a reasonable proximity. I go there on occasion. It’s nothing like the Kensington Whole Foods, and apparently nothing like the one in Park City (a friend told me they have an oatmeal bar for breakfast which I would definitely enjoy).
A couple years ago I visited the new Harmon’s down by IKEA. I heard all sorts of wonderful things about it: how big it was, the little café upstairs, the gelato bar…so I had to go see it for myself.
I walked in bright eyed and bushy tailed with my little cart (I like the little carts) and looked around like I had just stepped into Disneyland, not sure where I should go first. I walked over to the deli section where I saw a man giving away samples of cheese. He was light and jolly and friendly to everyone who walked by. It took me a minute before I thought, "Hey, I know that guy!" I was surprised because it was a man I would normally describe as a curmudgeon of sorts, but here, at Harmon’s he’s happy. And how could you be anything but happy, bringing people joy by introducing them to mouthwatering cheeses. I envied him a little.
I longed for a Harmon’s closer to my home in downtown SLC. If I’m ever driving in Holladay or Sandy, I always do some shopping at Harmon’s. I guess I prefer to support local businesses; I like that they sell local products (even though most grocery stores have that offering these days).
But I have a new happy place. Maybe it’s because the downtown Harmon’s isn’t here yet, and it’s true I have not yet been to the new Whole Foods at Trolley, but my loyalties have divided.
On Tuesday I shopped at the new Sunflower Market on 200 South and 700 East. It was advertised as having it's "grand" opening on Wednesday, but I did a slow drive by a week earlier and on the doors I saw a sign that read “sneak preview” on Tuesday. So after work, I snuck in.
Now, I shop at Sunflower Market often, but I normally drive to Murray to do it. So, the fact that SM is now 5 minutes from my home is point number one. They get another point for having the “half carts” as I like to call them. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an entire family to shop for, but I love not having to push a giant cart around a grocery store. It’s a perfect size for Laura and there’s a nice little slot for my purse.
Sunflower Market is a chain in the western states, but they sell local produce and other products. My favorite thing about this place is their emphasis on produce. It’s mostly all about the produce. They sell high quality fruits and vegetables for much less than you would find at Smith’s, Harmon’s and (especially) Whole Foods. You can get a head of green leaf lettuce for 99 cents. Smith’s price? $2.49.
Also if you hit the sales right you can get raw almonds for $3.99 lb, dark chocolate covered almonds for $4.99 lb, organic steel cut oats for 89 cents a lb, and all sorts of other great bulk items. I also stocked up on strawberries for 88 cents a lb. which was awesome. They have a new sale each Wednesday that you can have emailed to you weekly. The flyer also lists all the fruits and vegetables which are currently in season.
Maybe it’s because food makes me so happy – especially good quality and nutritious food, but I’ll probably be going to the giant Smith’s a lot less and the little Sunflower Market a lot more. Tonight I need to pick up some fennel, an onion and a red pepper so I can make this: