It was 1995 when Chef Boy Ari rolled into Missoula for the first time. He and his lady, G-Spot, were visiting their buddy, Pouncing Doom. It was one of those expansive Missoula autumn nights, the valley humming low-key satisfaction like it does. Pouncing Doom took us south from his Myrtle Street digs to the appropriately named Good Food Store, where we purchased potatoes and cheese.
I remember waiting in line at the cash register by the door, watching evidence of a beautiful community unfold all around me, people laughing and chatting and happily buying good food.
That short visit to the Good Food Store reinforced my impression that Missoula was the place to be—notwithstanding the hobo spider that Pouncing Doom smashed with his shoe when we got home. Although G-Spot squeaked in horror as the spider went down, I dug that Missoula was a tough-love kind of town.
Now, eight years later, I’m standing at the crossroads of aisles in the center of the Good Food Store. Bulk bins to the north, corn chips to the east, coffee and produce to the west, and down south, peanut butter, crackers, pancake mix, syrup, and myriad power bars.
Alas, it’s like saying farewell to an old friend. On April 31, the Good Food Store will close for the last time at its present location. The next morning at 8:30 a.m. will be the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the store’s new location: 3rd and Russell.
This will be a festive day, with samples galore, as the public is invited to explore the big new store in all of its glory. The new store will be a showcase for “green” building techniques, with recycled and environmentally friendly materials used whenever possible—including “plywood” made from wheat stalks. It will be a model of what a natural foods supermarket should be.
And it is big. Big enough to house a full deli, with full meal options, as well as fresh meat and seafood. No longer will The Stalkers need to cram the shelves to the density of a Hong Kong slum. And the new store will accommodate all kinds of items that aren’t available at the current store because of limited space. I even heard a rumor about a mayonnaise aisle.
Yes, yes, yes. I’m sure that is all true. And I hope that this move increases the common good. I hope the new store brings in lots of people, expanding the marketplace for local growers and food processors. I hope its high profile raises the level of awareness in Western Montana of the importance of good food. I hope that this will be a positive example of the power of the economics of scale.
I asked a local shopper, a Portuguese citizen who identified himself as Tu Madre, what he thought of the move. He said “Confucius say: ‘not everything that is big is better,’” as crumbs of Zen Party Mix (sampled NOT with his bare hands) spilled from his mouth.
“I think everything is right here,” said Tu Madre, motioning with his hand around the current store. “In Portugal, you have neighborhood stores all over the place. I think that’s good. I’m sure the new store will be nice, but I will not go there. I’m on my bike. I will go to the Food Farm.”
Checkout Dude, squeezing down the aisle, heard us talking about the new place. “It’s natural to fear and resist change,” he said. “But we really need more space. And people are going to seriously dig the new store. I was just there. It’s crazy. It’s pretty neat. It’s huge. It’s glamorous. You walk in, you’re like, ‘what the...’ Anyway, quit blocking the aisle, Chef Boy Ari.”
There I was, blocking traffic at the center of the Good Food Store, flooded by the memories of all of my adventures there since the time G-Spot and I first rolled into town...
Like the time Don Guido Ashkinazi cornered me by the soy milk and told me his technique for wooing young ladies at the health food store.
“Gotta fatten you up for the slaughter,” he would say. “Chicks dig the ‘not too fat’ body affirmation” he explained, “and in this context, ‘slaughter’ sounds kinky.”
A few minutes later, I caught up with DGA by the cheese cooler, and told him how I got slapped. He reminded me that you must already be on a dinner date with said babe for his technique to work. Cheese Dude shook his head, embarrassed to have witnessed such a pathetic performance. He handed me a sample of Spanish Bleu.
Well, I guess it’s time to grow up. Good-bye old store, I love you. Things are changing, and things are staying the same. Cheese Dude, The Stalkers, Checkout Babe and the whole cast of Good Food Folk will be waiting with open arms to settle us in at the new place—a giant and colorful butterfly emerging from its well-worn cocoon.
E-mail Chef Boy Ari: firstname.lastname@example.org