New in the neighborhood

“New B International Market” opened up this week two blocks from our apartment, on Purchase Street near Union (in the Bristol Building). Carol and I stopped in yesterday as we were walking home.

A young woman was talking with the man at the cash register, as he rang up her groceries. They seemed to know each other pretty well. She was telling him about a trip she had just taken.

We walked around the store to see what they carried. They had just opened, so there were still empty shelves. Lots of Latin American specialities. Some nice-looking fresh fish at reasonable prices. A modest selection of produce. Milk and eggs. Some frozen food. I got a big jar of green olives for $1.89, a head of garlic for $.49, a box of tea bags. Carol checked out the cans of sliced jalapeno peppers and refried beans, but searched in vain for sangria-flavored soft drinks (her favorite).

The young woman was still talking to the man at the register.She seemed to know him well enough to call him by his first name, Jose. We didn’t mind waiting; it was a friendly kind of store.

The man rang up our purchases. Carol asked him when the store would be open. “Seven to seven, Monday through Saturday,” he said, and then apologetically, “one to six on Sundays. Do you live in the neighborhood?”

We said we did, and promised we’d be back, that we’d been waiting months for this little grocery store to open up.

“That store has a very particular selection,” said Carol as we walked away. “I guess it’s Cape Verdean, I don’t know.” It did look like the little flag behind the cash register was Cape Verdean.

“Yes,” I said, “but they have milk and eggs and produce and all the little things you need in the middle of the week but don’t want to drive all the way to the supermarket to get. And their prices are quite reasonable for a convenience market.”

She was just peeved because they didn’t have sangria-flavored soft drinks. We love being able to walk to buy groceries.

1 thought on “New in the neighborhood

  1. Scott Wells

    I can really identify with your situation. I’ve been very deliberate in my grocery shopping and pleased by how my habits have turned. For the record, within a three minute walk from my apartment I have a Salvadoran bodega, a Pakistani (I think) general grocery coming back from seediness, a “destination” Whole Foods, a 7-11, and a CVS. They get my business roughly in that order. For seasonal produce, eggs, and apple butter, I have three farmers’ markets on rotation. Hubby and I will trot over a few blocks to the Safeway once in a blue moon, but their new rehab hasn’t changed the lackluster way they are managed, so I’m prone to cut them off.

    There are several values I bring into my food and household shopping, including neighborhood development and sustainable production. For all the rah-rah over Whole Foods, they are still a large corporation (so money leaves the neighborhood) and most of their organic goods have to be trucked thousands of miles to DC. Too much of their boutique lines suffer from overpackaging and really are overpriced. I don’t think long lines are a sign of a quality shopping experience either. I go there for stuff like frozen peas, pasta, milk and bulk oatmeal which is cheap and basic.

    Plus, I like knowing — by face if not name — my local Salvadoran and Pakistani (I think) shopkeepers. They are far more responsive because they are invested in the small things. Their product selections subtlely shape my foodways — more pita, cabbage, olives and canned beets than before — and the neighbors shape the stores. Is this the making of an urban “terroir”? I was happiest the day the younger bodega clerk offered to hold back two tamales for tomorrow because she had just sold the last of the day’s batch. And she did. And they are very, very tasty.

    I bet Carol could ask for those soft-drinks — I like Goya Malta Light, too — and they’ll show up. Eventually.

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