This is how old I am, I thought, as I maneuvered my shopping cart around a display of flip- flops and just missed an orderly line of patio umbrellas, I remember when grocery stores only sold food.
I’m trying to recall when this started … as a child, I can remember that glassware and cheap flatware could be had, crammed into a space next to paper towels and picnic supplies. And really, if you just bought a few jars of Bama jelly, those became your juice glasses once finished. But the only way to find something a bit more ambitious was to stand bored, behind my mother as she waited breathlessly for her turn to exchange her S&H green stamps for … for what?? This was a heady moment, the culmination of patiently sticking row after row of green stamps given at checkout by the grocery store, into a little booklet, which, when filled, could be redeemed for all kinds of neat stuff. Of course, one could peruse the catalog of offerings, but once there at the actual S&H center, it was far more exciting.
“I decided on the blender,” my mother would say, until her choice was betrayed by something even more exotic, “but that coffee percolator is quite nice.”
Sometime between those black and white memories and nowadays, someone in middle management held up a finger at a regional meeting and said, “Hark! Why not sell cheap, black leather jackets this autumn?”
“Little early to begin drinking, isn’t it, Fred?” someone else would chuckle, while exhaling a mouthful of cigar smoke.
“I’m telling you, we can make our stores a one-stop shopping place for all kinds of items. Give the shopping malls a run for their money.”
“He’s got a point,” nodded another three-piece leisure suit thoughtfully. “Why, only last week, my wife specifically bought a box of Breeze laundry detergent just to get the free towel being given away inside.”
There would be a few more musings, then everyone would stare at the boss’s secretary’s legs as she walked in before the meeting was dismissed, and leave for a two-martini lunch at Steak ‘n’ Ale.
Today, you can buy anything, and I mean anything, at our local grocery store. Bouquets of flowers, bags of sweet feed for horses on a non low-starch diet, a Starbuck’s iced mocha latte. You can even pick up a crate of fireworks from the long rows of booths set up in the parking lot before July 4th because everyone enjoys the convenience of buying their booze and M80s at one place. And should you blow off a couple of fingers, there’s a pharmacy inside to fill your pain-med prescription as well as give you a Shingles shot while you’re at it.
We’ve gotten used to buying everything that isn’t groceries at grocery stores. Sorta crept up on us. However, now we’re used to it and rather expect it.
But should Ethan Allen start selling produce, well, c’mon, that’d just be weird.