Monday, September 10, 2007

The Dust Bowl at 30th and Halsted

The Jewel grocery store by my apartment closed down Thursday, and to the final minute they never discounted the Kingsford char-wood. Had they discounted it, Chuqueaux would have spent a lot of blistering cold January days grilling in the snow drifts in my backyard.

With the Jewel closed the closest grocery store in the neighborhood within walking distance is this Certi-Saver on Halsted, by 34th Street. I get nauseous walking in there, and it takes a lot for me to blow chunks. It's kind of what you expect a Certi-Saver, or Butera, or A&P (if those are still around) to look and smell like: faded linoleum floors, a smell of pine sol and absorbent sawdust in the air, cashiers who really don't want to be bothered with ringing you up, and the slight feeling of dread that there's a rodent problem that gets cleared up just in time for a surprise health inspection. Which is a shame, because it looks like they have some decent produce and meats in there. I just get sick walking in from the smell. It reminds me of this Butera that used to be at Wilson and Clark when I lived on the north side. Same smell, same floors that saw better days, same cashiers. I actually saw a cockroach skitter across a shelf there once.

Anyway, I was shopping at this Butera once, I think it was late '95, right after Halloween. Yeah, it was because that was the year Peg and I dressed as the Hulk and She-Hulk for Halloween and my nipples froze till they cracked while hopping from party to party in Wicker Park. Another story for another time, I suppose. Back to Butera. On this particular visit there were two cashiers at one register admiring each other's lacquered hair, brown lipstick, and neck tattoos (nothing is classier than a tattoo inked in Olde English script on someones neck). The girl actually working the register was methodically scanning my groceries across the reader while rubbing her visibly pregnant belly. The second one asked in between gum snaps, "Girl, what are you, five months now?"

First one said, "Yeah. And Mousey better do right by me, too." The second girl was twirling her gum around her finger when it broke and she asked, "What about Mousey?"

Pregnant cashier said, "I said Mousey better take care of his kid when he's born." The second girl started to think, which might have been a foreign occurrence for her, and asked, "Are you going out with someone named Mousey, too." That's when all three of us got that look on our faces that said, "uh-oh."

Second girl decided that right then would be the ideal time to keep it real. "Oh, hell no. Tell me you ain't been sleeping with my boyfriend." The pregnant cas
hier snapped back, "If that's your boyfriend, he wasn't the night he knocked my ass up."

"You fucking ho!" screamed the second girl. Suddenly they were in each other's faces, screaming and pointing with their fake nails. I thought some corneas were gonna get scratched. The manager ran up to the checkout line and asked me if there was a problem. I assured him that the problem was most likely Mousey's. He somehow managed to separate the two cashiers, ring up my groceries, and get me off on my way. Had I shopped on a regular basis at the Jewel on North Lincoln, I probably would never have had this story to tell.

With this Jewel closing it means that sometime in the upcoming weeks I'm going to head to Kozys and start pricing grocery panniers for my Schwinn, as the next closest grocery stores that don't trigger my gag reflex when I enter are a Dominick's on Archer and Ashland and a Pete's Fresh Market on 22nd, west of Western. I was at the latter with Sue the other night - she was loading up on stuff while I was picking and choosing what to replenish. I think I walked out with a load of frozen juice, fruit, and sliced lunch meat for under $30. I've always loved Pete's Fresh Market. the stores are clean, the food is fresh, they may actually have a basic understanding of "free range" and organic there, if not actually try to carry some, and their cashiers never seem to be involved in any baby daddy drama.


Joe U said...

Some Bridgeport Grocery Store History:

Halsted Foods (the Certi-Saver) was originally an A&P up until about 1975 when A&P pulled out of the Chicago area. As a matter of fact, that store as you currently see it is pretty much original from the days of A&P ownership. The last remodel was in 1964 (I was 10 years old) when the new white and green floor was put down, The shelving in the store has been in pretty much the same position ever since. The only thing that has really changed is the frozen food section next to the produce where vertical freezers were installed. So, you are actually seeing a 1940s A&P designed store in 2007!

The original Jewel was on 33rd and Halsted. The Jewel moved to the now closed 30th and Halsted around 1973, There was a thrift store that took over the old Jewel location until it moved across the street from the now closed Jewel. There also was a National on the same block between 33rd and 34th on Halsted.

The class store during the 50s & 60s was called Learners on 34th and Halsted where the Chicago public Library is now at. It occupied the south half of the now library with the north portion of the library being a Magi-Kist cleaners. Giant red lips flickered into the night at that corner for many years!

Where the thrift store is now at 30th and Halsted was originally a Krogers. The Krogers pulled out and was replaced by Dominick's (around 1972) which moved to Archer and Ashland in the middle 80's.

So, as you can see , The Halsted Foods Certi-Saver is the only store left of the long progression of stores that have operated on Halsted St. over the years. As an FYI, the Halsted Foods rumored to be taking over the Jewel location of 30th & Halsted. We'll see if this actually happens!

Karin said...

Hi there,

New to your blog and a fellow Bridgeport resident as well.

The halsted foods is pretty gross looking--but I'll tell you I had some really fantastic italian sausage from there for my Labor Day picnic. I've also been told they make a very good in-store ravioli and pirogie.

i'll have to try Pete's market some time, I hadn't heard of it before.