Last month when I visited my mom and brother in New Jersey for Christmas, we took a trip to a local Stop & Shop because there's only so much you can do late at night in Bergen County.
...And it was also for nostalgia's sake. While growing up in Franklin Lakes, the Stop & Shop in Wyckoff was the supermarket my family shopped at the most. It was also where I got my first "real" job in 2003 near the end of senior year when I figured I may as well attempt to make a few bucks before going to college. What role did I aim for? Bagger, aka "the easiest job you could possibly get at a supermarket." I wasn't aiming to make a lot of money, just something that wasn't from my parents. $6.50 an hour for methodically placing food in plastic and paper bags didn't seem all that bad. (I hated bagging large bottles of soda though; too goddamn bulky. Cereal boxes were quite nice.)
I'm probably one of the few employees in the history of Stop & Shop who found bagging a fascinating window into the eating habits of mostly white, upper-middle class America; it was pretty different from the diet imposed by my Chinese health conscious mom. That I was taking an anthropology class at the time and was on a raw food diet probably contributed to that fascination, though. (I remember taking tabs on the customers who bought fruits and vegetables and those who didn't. Because that's what you do when everything you eat is raw.) But baggies of luncheon meats and gallon jugs of milk can only captivate a 17-year-old with a short attention span for so long—a few months, in my case. I can't remember what I did in the period between end-of-work and beginning-of-school, but it probably involved sleeping excessively and eating loads of fruit. After I stopped working there, going back to buy groceries felt awkward.
So...fast forward about six years. The Stop & Shop I used to work in is no more; the strip mall it once resided in got a full makeover. While the location is the same, the new building is larger—think "Walmart-esque"—and the design is friendlier and more welcoming. I rub my eyes and, through slack-jawed mouth, utter something profound, like, "Whoaaaaa." If you're accustomed to the tight aisles of New York City's supermarkets, you would too.
This supermarket probably isn't anything special to most people—hell, maybe most new Stop & Shops look like this. But all I could think is, "This place is fuggin' huge." I happily cruised the mostly empty aisles with my brother. Here are some things I thought were worth photographing.
Really wide aisles. Nice.
That's not antifreeze; it's 99¢ gallon jugs of a "Wildberry" flavored beverage by Guaranteed Value™. I'm a fan of generic packaging; water-high fructose corn syrup-preservatives-raspberry juice-blue food coloring blend, less so.
Six different Raisin Bran box designs in one section. All purple. How will you choose?
As zigwaffle commented, there's some impressive facing going on in the Pop-Tarts section. (I think I've only tried a Pop-Tart once in my life when I was a kid—I didn't like the thick layer of frosting. Or the thin layer of filling. But I didn't like the "healthier" version from the health food store either for tasting too healthy. Toaster pastries, you cannot please me. But that's okay, because I don't have a toaster.)
The "International Foods" aisle was definitely a new addition. I was impressed by how well stocked the British section was (I didn't get it all in this photo). Who's buying all these Heinz Baked Beans, Digestives, PG Tips, and Jammie Dodgers? I dipped into the supply by grabbing a pack of Jammie Dodgers to relive the trip I took to England in 2004, during which I discovered and overdosed on biscuits. It's easy considering the vast variety in existence, and that biscuits are so pleasantly easy to snack on. Too. Pleasant.
Holy shit it's JELL-O TIME! And pudding time. I like the idea of Jell-O more than actually eating it. Growing up, my mom would rarely buy the mix, but instead combine fruit juice with Knox unflavored gelatin. It wasn't the same. Damn my infantile mind, so enraptured by artificial colors and flavors. (It still is, sort of.)
It's that Guaranteed Value™ brand again, this time bringing you five boxes of corn muffin mix for $5. Damn. I almost wanted one.
There were two aisles of soft drinks. I'm used to there only being one per supermarket.
Just because I liked the name.
"How do we make this white tissue paper more exciting?"
"Add an exclamation mark!"
This was the first time I had seen a shopping cart with a cup holder. I wonder how many kids have gotten burned by their parents hot beverages.
And that's my random supermarket tour. Stop & Shop is much nicer than I expected, has a huge variety of products, and is quite inexpensive (I think I got a box of clementines for $5). It's something in between a regular supermarket and a Wegmans, perhaps? I wouldn't mind having that in the city, where I usually shop at either Whole Foods or street vendors in Chinatown.
Next post: REAL FOOD.
Super Stop & Shop
327 Franklin Avenue, Wyckoff, NJ 07481 (map)