11 October 2008

Friday Night at the Grocery Store (A Sort of Reverie)

Last night the Mrs. went to sleep super early, and I found myself watching TV a little after 9. I was about to switch over to the Red Sox game when I was seized with a snack attack. A quick spin around the kitchen confirmed that no suitable snacks were on the premises, so I put on my shoes and headed to the nearest grocery store, the Foodmaster at the intersection of route 60 and route 28 in Medford.

What I had in mind was some butterscotch pecan cookies that they bake on the premises, but unfortunately they were out, which was not surprising since it was about 30 minutes before closing time. I settled for some Ben & Jerry's. As I made my way around the nearly empty store, it reminded me of an idea I had years ago.

A long time ago, let's say 11 years just because today's the 11th, we were on our way home from somewhere on a Friday night, and remembered that we needed something at the store. It was a little after midnight when we walked into the same Stop & Shop where we now do most of our regular food shopping. We had never been there quite so late, and the store was bustling with restocking activity, but had hardly any customers. Interestingly, they had also turned off about half of the overhead fluorescent lights, giving the store a much cozier ambiance than usual.

This was right around the time that bowling alleys started doing the "atomic bowling" thing, with the colored lights, blasting music, and blacklight-glowing pins and balls. Almost instantly my brain went, "Atomic shopping!" Late-night grocery shopping with a dash of socializing mixed in, or vice versa, depending on your point of view. It seemed like an obvious and cool idea to me, but let's face it, it's usually easy to impress yourself.

Several years later, through a combination of circumstances I found myself working at Trader Joe's on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. One evening I was helping a coworker set up one of the wine tastings and the atomic shopping idea popped back into my head. The wheels started turning: a lot of young, single people shop at this store. Why not play to that audience? Add some festive lighting, hook a DJ into the store's sound system, sample some appetizers along with the wine. Turn Friday nights at Trader Joe's into a singles party.

I actually proposed this idea to the manager, but he was not receptive. Your loss, I thought, you'd probably get some extra business out of it. But that's how it goes when you're an underling. I still think this idea would have merit in the right circumstances, so if anyone who is reading this is in a position to make it happen, feel free to borrow my idea. And send me pictures.

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