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Cheesy problem

January 6, 2023

The first time Mike and I came to the island, not long after we got together, there were a couple of convenience stores and not much else. By the time we bought a house here four years later there was a whole shopping centre in the village – a grocery store, a pharmacy, a library and more.

The grocery store at the time was independent and even though some people complained that the prices were higher than those at the supermarkets requiring a ferry ride to town, as far as I was concerned it was great. It was also quite community spirited, providing free baked goods and other food stuffs to various groups on the island. And a “community card” which donated 1% (it might actually have been 2%) of your shopping total to various island non-profits.

It was, of course, inevitable that it would one day be bought by a chain, which it was a couple of years ago. A small chain part of a larger chain. Yes, the prices did go down a bit, but there was also a downside. Instead of two brands of salsa, suddenly there were six options, but not one of them was the salsa I liked.

The community card disappeared fairly quickly replaced by a rewards card. Yeah, occasionally I’d be told I’d amassed enough points to earn a $100 gift card, but I would have preferred that money went to a local charity.

And then there was (and continues to be) the cheese situation. One of the main suppliers is a Vancouver Island dairy that does a great sharp, white, crumbly Cheddar. I love that cheese. Good luck finding it now.

The same dairy also makes rubbery, orange mild, medium, (supposedly) “old” and marbled Cheddar. (Who the hell actually buys marbled cheddar?) The old, independent store knew the tangy white Cheddar was by far the most popular and ordered accordingly. Not now. It seems part of being a chain involves ordering the same way. That empty slot on the left is where the good cheese would be – if there was any to be found. As soon as it comes in, it disappears, while the crappy orange cheese sits there. Weeks of waiting until there’s a sighting of the good stuff. I’ve finally figured out that I should buy at least two, probably three blocks next time it does appear – which is clearly what everyone else is doing. (An enquiry a while ago confirmed my suspicion that no, the store is not allowed to sensibly order more of the good cheese and less of the rubbery, tasteless cheese. Company rules dictate ordering equal amounts of each type – whether or not they actually sell.)

Towards the end of last year things got even worse. First the existing “rewards” card was replace by one from the parent company. Then the restocking began and when it did the M&Ms disappeared. No, not the candies – the frozen food company. An entire section of the freezer aisle used to be stocked with M&M products. Most were meat of some sort, but there were also two “party packs”, one of vegetarian Indian appetisers, the other Chinese. These were a great thing to have in the freezer for those nights when you just can’t be arsed trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Every single one of those M&M products has disappeared, replaced by the parent company’s own brand frozen food. None of which involves veggie Asian appies. Sigh.

And don’t get me started on the produce section. There’s no such thing as a ripe avocado. They’re either rock hard or mush. Someone posted on the community bulletin board the other day that two out of the three onions he’d just bought were rotten inside. Oh, and the prices just keep going up and up.

Our once friendly (well, the staff still are), perfectly okay grocery store has been swallowed up by a conglomerate. I’m still not tempted to spend $25 on a return ferry trip to town to shop for food – not least because the selection would probably be the same – but I am sad. Especially about the cheese.

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