Without food on the dairy shelves you can hear the rattle of the cooler clank from 3 aisles over. Empty carts are strewn about the half-empty aisles like the opening scene of a dystopian novel. "We're going to miss you" I hear a lady say to an employee who is pulling shampoo off the end of an aisle.
He doesn’t respond.
The smell is an overwhelming mix of cleaner and grime as little nooks behind shelves and coolers that haven’t seen the light of day are exposed. The energy in the store is weird, like you’d imagine. There are bargain hunters filling up their carts with discount goods, there are managers frantically moving empty pallets around, and there are people who look utterly confused as they likely came in for milk and eggs and are met with empty shelves. All make for a unique people watching experience.
The shelves go back and forth between being full or empty depending on the product. In this fictional dystopian narrative I’ve created while walking up and down the aisle it seems like no one wanted to buy the spaghetti or pasta sauce, but everyone wanted the dairy products and wine. Signs clutter the freezer doors to let you know what ice cream is not on sale. That explains why those shelves are full.
As I was leaving, I was walking out behind an elderly man slightly hunched over carrying only a coffee. He shuffled his feet slowly as he smiled under the brim of his hat. "You leaving Roger?" a Martin's employee said to him. He said something to her that I couldn't hear. "Awww, Thank You!" she replied in a lovingly high-pitched voice before giving him a hug.
The Martin’s on Brook Road wasn’t the best store in the world. It’s imperfections as a grocery store are what made it great. It was refreshingly normal. It didn’t have fancy flatbread samples served to you by an employee forced to wear an apron and a chef hat. The salmon wasn’t $17/LB and given a hot stone massage before it was filleted.
The store was real and it will be missed.