There is a grocery store in my town that has withstood the test of time. And by that, I mean that when you walk in you are transported into a mid-century modern setting. It is as if time has stopped.
The color scheme consists of lots of tomato red, bright orange, and harvest gold, complete with zippy “modern” fonts lettering the signage, not to mention the patina of several decades of dust. The shelves, though serviceable, show the wear and tear of many years displaying Topol smoker’s tooth polish and Dreft laundry soap.
The butcher case still has the fringy green “parsley” along the back, all the better to display its chuck roasts and London broils.
Near the front entrance, coin operated machines display Super-Balls, Troll dolls, and rabbit’s foot keychains for 25¢. What “Angry Birds” are doing there is anyone’s guess, as they seem completely out of place in this retro setting.
The floors have been repaired throughout the years, and not necessarily with the same color tiles as they once had, resulting in a patchwork effect. Even the music playing over the loudspeaker is retro; on my last visit I heard the song “Bernadette” by The Four Tops and “Downtown” by Petula Clark.
It’s jarring to encounter a modern product on these shelves. In fact, some of the non-perishable products seem to have been dusted and re-tagged throughout the years to reflect inflation. I saw a pair of shoe-laces that seemed to be of a mid-60’s vintage hanging on a hook; it’s cardboard packaging had dogeared corners and no fewer than five price tags stacked one over the other.
As one walks down the aisles of this store, it would not be surprising to encounter Betty Draper in a swing coat and gloves selecting a Swanson TV Dinner, complete with peach cobbler, from the freezer case. My mother, in her checkered polyester pants with matching jacket, beehive hair-do, and cat eye glasses would be right at home in the produce section.
Which brings to mind another story: Once, many years ago, my sister got lost in the grocery store when she was about four years old. She followed a woman — a complete stranger — right out of the store, thinking that she was still trailing in my mother’s wake. Apparently, this stranger was wearing the same brightly-patterned polyester pants as my mother, with whom she had at some point crossed paths. Fortunately, my sister paused and started crying loudly when this woman did not approach a silver station wagon like the stylish vehicle that my mother drove in those days. At this point, the stranger noticed her and brought her back in to the store where she was reunited with my mother and her polyester pants. No doubt they shared a joke about admiring one-another’s attire before this stranger left.
But, back to the present…
As charming as this establishment is, I have to wonder if they notice that their store is like a set from “Mad Men.” I am tempted to find a vintage outfit at an estate sale to wear to there, and then ask them where they keep the “Ayds Weight Loss Chews” and the “Brylcreem” and how many S&H Green Stamps I’ll get with my purchase.