Friday, September 10, 2010


Well, that didn’t take long. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time before A and P went out of business once Price Chopper opened across the street. And with the announcement that A and P stores are being bought by Big Y yesterday, there is bound to be both cheers and jeers. You either love A and P or you don't.

I’m a loyal fan. For a long, long time (like over 30 years) it’s been the only grocery store on the west side of Middletown. It’s the end of an era over here. If for no other reason than its remarkable longevity, A and P should be properly eulogized.

There’s not a lot to say about the store itself. It isn’t fancy. The produce is fresh but I don’t buy fish there. The Meat Department has been reliable and basic. The Bakery is always a solid B+. Personally, I like their bran muffins with all that dark molasses in them. I’d run up to Big Y in Rocky Hill to do all my “major” grocery shopping, and on the way home stop at A and P just to pick up bran muffins.

I’m going to miss their good sales on everyday groceries and the fact that they triple coupons. Nobody else triples coupons anymore.

I will definitely miss the convenience of the store. It’s close to my house and there’s usually a parking spot at the front doors. Since it was not a huge store, you know where everything is and you’re in and out in 10 minutes.

And have you ever noticed how many people use the customer service counter at A and P as their bank, cashing their weekly paychecks and purchasing money orders to pay their bills, sending a Western Union, then buying a few lottery tickets and checking yesterday’s numbers? A lot of every day routines are going to have to change because this grocery store is closing.

I will miss the Eight-O-Clock coffee that you can grind at checkout. And the American Legion guys sitting outside the exit selling red poppies on Memorial Day.

But more than anything, I’ll miss the employees. Dawn at the register with her grey hair is always friendly to me. The crew behind the deli counter are pleasant and you always get the sense that they really enjoy the feel of carving deli meat. The gals at the customer service counter blow hot and cold, but if you give them a smile you get rewarded with a small crack in the armor.

I was reading the on-line comments in the Middletown Press article about the closing of A and P; not the most flattering (they too, suffer from the "allergy".) I want to defend the A and P employees. Sure, they are not the most cheerful crowd around and it’s true they are always bickering with each other. But that’s what families do after being together for 10, 20 and 30 years. As a customer, I sort of enjoyed that part of the A and P shopping experience. Like family, after a while you just forgive them their sins and accept them as they are and sorta look forward to the authenticity of the experience. It took me a while to not resent not getting the bright and shiny, corporate-mandated, forced smiles and hellos you usually get from other grocery stores, though. But then I started seeing the tarnish more like a patina and I'd walk out of A and P with my groceries in hand and with a smirk on my face thinking, “Good, bad, or indifferent, this place is part of my community and I’m happy to see them today.”

As a society, I think we under-appreciate grocery store employees--these are the people who help us feed our families, make corsage’s for our mothers and daughters, bake our kids' birthday cakes and prepare the roasts for our holiday dinners--we should all care more about them since they care so much for us and our families. I don’t know the A and P employees well, but I know them well enough to know who some are by their first names. Here are just some of the employees in Middletown and the estimated number of years they’ve worked there (I'm sorry it is such an incomplete list because I know there are so many more). But this will give you an idea of the longevity of some of these folks at this store:

Cindy, 15 years

Jennie, 17 years

Bob, 20+ years

Judith, at least 9 years

Debbie, 14 years

Patty, 28 years

Judy F., 30 years

Cheryl, 20 years

Sara, probably 30 years on and off (and we went to high school together)

A lot of people will be losing their jobs on October 30, 2010 when the A and P on Washington Street closes. Many will find it extremely difficult to re-enter the job market due to the “Great Recession”, narrowed skill sets because they they are loyal employees who stayed in the same job too long, and frankly, because of their age (even though that’s not supposed to matter, legally speaking, but we all know that it does).

Think about what happened to all the old Pratt & Whitney employees once the World Became Flat; some of them never quite recovered from losing their jobs, either financially or psychologically. I’m afraid it will be like that for many of the A and P employees, but I hope not. I hope that the family-owned Big Y managers will open a store on Washington Street and offer the former A and P employees new jobs and give The Chopper a run for its money!

Until then we get to keep A and P--will all its tarnish or patina.

(Note, for some reason ampersands are not allowed in a blog, so that explains that.)


Anonymous said...

A&P most certainly has its flaws and I really like the way that you point out that it's possible to appreciate those as unique character, and to also find the really good things about the place despite the flaws. And as the spouse of a grocery store employee (not A&P) I can certainly attest to the fact that it is a very difficult and draining, at times exhausting and labor intensive job that is not all that rewarding. I hope that the people mentioned who have stuck with it for so long can manage to move on as easily as possible when the store closes.

Madam Nirvana said...

Thank you for listing the employee's careers there, that was very thoughtful.

Man of the town said...

It is truly sad to see the store close but blame has to go back on management who let the store go.
Like you said many long time employees will lose their jobs which is the sad part of the closing in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

It was sad to read that A&P will be closing in October. The store had a lot of charm and reminded me of the supermarket my mother and I would shop in when I was younger. Thank you for writing such a great editorial on the section.

That being said, I don't think another supermarket is what should go in the space. The other stores in that plaza would greatly benefit having a different popular business that could reinvent that side of Washington St.

BC3 said...

Thanks for a thoughtful article. It's nice to read a different perspective on A&P a store that is decidedly run down on the surface but also sort of charming.

I have not found Price Chopper particularly charming. It's glittery and new for sure but I can't seem to figure out what's better about it than anywhere else. My ultimate conclusion: nothing.

If it had come in to town with an agenda of localism or at least made some effort at it (perhaps some Thomas Hooker beer in the fridge and local produce) I would have been excited. Alas, it's just more of the same.

martel said...

Bring back the Topps department store!

Cathy said...

Does anyone know what was there before Topps? Maybe what we now call "open space"? I can't remember anything there before Topps....