Thursday, June 19, 2014


I'm in love. I always had in mind it would be more of a George Clooney type of situation that would rekindle that passion which would make my mind spin with anticipation and desire, that adrenaline pumping force that keeps you up at two-thirty in the morning because you can't stop thinking about it. I didn't think I could feel this way again at my age but its happened. I'm in love and the object of my obsession is a store. No, it's not an Armani at the mall, or a Billy Ried or even a J. Crew for men; no - it's a grocery store
For months we've all been trying to figure out what they've been building up the hill in between the edge of the city and the cornfields that still remain before you get to the next bedroom suburb. We've speculated on a Target or worse another Walmart but then the building looked too high end for that. It was a mere month ago that a sign finally appeared saying Metro Market would be hiring for their grand opening in the middle of June. It was about that time that flyers went out inviting residents to a gala grand opening you had to rsvp for. I mean how grand could it be? It was a grocery store after all. We passed on the grand opening. After the fact, we heard there was an hour wait to get in. It shows you how starved for a party our neighborhood must be. I waited until the following day to give the store a once over. And then it happened. The parking lot should have been an indication that this wasn't going to be just any grocery store. The central outdoor pergola with its café tables and chairs, even the cart return areas where steps beyond ordinary. Sleek black carts with places to store your recyclable bags and drink holders all coming in two convenient sizes: one for family shopping and one for the "I'm only picking up dinner" crowd were neatly stacked in specially designed covered metal corals.
I still wasn't fully impressed until I stepped through the automatic doors and walked right into an aromatic spice corner. There's a scene in Love Actually where one of the characters is at the jewelry counter in Harrods trying to buy a necklace for his secretary before his wife comes to finds him out. The humor is in the wrapping of the gift; a series of special bags where rose petals are scooped in and lavender is hand crushed before the gift is tied up with silk ribbons and then wrapped in box after box as the recalcitrant husband's anxiety escalates. This spice corner was my jewelry counter at Harrods and I was hooked watching an attendant measure an exotic sea salt into a cellophane bag with a silver scoop as she stood before bags of spices that would have rivaled any Moroccan market.
The marvels had only begun. To my right was a produce market that danced into life with its organic fare and Gene Kelly's voice breaking into "Singing in the Rain" every time the faux shower turned on spritzing all the produce with fine little pearls of what could only be purified water.
The parade of specialty nooks and stations continued until my heart was fluttering like a teenage boy with his first Playboy magazine. The sushi bar,
the flower market,
and the gourmet chocolate corner with its hand-dipped strawberries and truffles was only the beginning of my love fest.
I no more than passed the freshly baked breads with asiago focaccias and braided olive loafs
than I was seduced by a lounge area with a roaring fire and two huge red club chairs
accompanied by a Jazz trio, a real live Jazz trio smoking out some hot rifts on a piano, bass and drum set. This was all happening in one little corner of the store.
I had miles of aisles yet to explore. Aisles so wide and clean I regretted all my New York friends would never understand that this is what grocery shopping could be.
When we first moved to Madison and were desperately trying to figure out what we were going to do I had taken some time to develop an introduction proposition to Lands' End. They are headquartered in Dodgeville, a town in Southeastern Wisconsin about forty-five minutes outside of Madison. My theory was that Lands' End was lacking an identity. The market for outdoor clothing stores was filled with look-a-likes like Orvis, Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean. Lands' End needed an image they could embrace that would set them apart from the crowd. I thought the way to do it was to take their Wisconsin heritage and develop a line of stores that took the shopping experience beyond just finding a flannel shirt in XXL and into a venue where you go even when you don't need anything else but to be entertained. I envisioned Lands' End stores with a Wisconsin north woods appeal; screen doors, stone fireplaces with big leather chairs, a man cave with sports reruns and a soda fountain selling Wisconsin root beers and cream puffs, all this in addition to their line of clothing. I sent it out cold to one of their vice-presidents who sent me back an email telling me he had shared it with his sales staff on how to do a cold call along with a contact to the next level of personal he thought I should contact. The next rung on the ladder got me a thank you note saying they don't use outside consultants but thanks anyway. If I see a new Lands' End opening with a screen door entrance and a root beer and cream puff bar in the back I'm going to be smelling a lawsuit.
Metro Market got the memo on creating a shopping experience that goes beyond just picking up tonight's dinner. They want you to want to come in their store and plan ahead for it the same way you'd plan out a Friday night at the movies.
They want to you to come and see the rows of olive oils in the world market aisle where the countries of Greece, Italy, Argentina and Spain are all gathered in a mini United Nations of oils
culminating in another tasting bar where an attendant hands out divots of crusty bread you can dip in saucers of various oils.
The wine and beer section can rival any selection from anywhere in the world.
Craft beers are available in cartons or individually where you can mix up a carton of Point Nude Beach, Milwaukee Brewing Company Bouyah and Potosi Snake Hollow Indian Pale Ale.
And then they hit me with a gelato counter where the tags read limone, fragola and stracciatella. I was back at the gelateria in Montelcino debating whether to get a vente or a grande cupa. It was almost more than I could handle.
But my favorite section and the one that sealed the deal was the meat and fish section. If you are shopping for this evening's dinner you need to hit this counter first. Take your time looking at the fresh steaks, chops and filets. Once you've made your selection the butchers will take it and grill it for you while you continue on with your shopping. All you have to do when you get home is plate it and eat it. I feel like that shopper in The Miracle on 34th Street who goes up to the floor manager and tells him how she wasn't a Macy's shopper before but this Santa gimmick, "Imagine Macy's sending customers to Gimbels. Well from now on I'll be doing all my shopping at Macys"
I know how she feels. I'll be grabbing my shopper in training cart and gleefully pushing it through the aisles of my new favorite addiction.

Vesuvio Bakery, Soho NYC
Brian Dube, photographer

1 comment:

  1. Have heard good things about Metro Mkt. Thanks for letting me see it "in person." Had the Vesuvio photo on my fridge for years!