• An excellent opinion from one of my favorite writers. I tell you, I have studied retail over a period of years in a number of places across the US and have never seen another area whose residents spent as much time or energy happily roaming grocery store aisles as New Orleanians do.
    I wonder how you feel about Mardi Gras Zone Store? It is deep within the Marigny, but it does have a few things that make it a New Orleans-centric place: a hot counter for example (and Mardi Gras boas and a piano upstairs…) I did a price comparison between it and the NOLA Food Coop a few years back for an article that I never finished and found their prices were lower on average than the NOFC, although the NOFC did run sales. They seemed to now have a wider selection, but many people who had gone there right after the storm when the owner had basically just stuck a few shelves of items in his Mardi Gras plush warehouse still think it is as bad as it was then. (I am sure he was paying close to a retail price to stock his shelves back then and now gets better wholesale prices and I hope passes some of those savings to his customers.) But is is enough? I often wonder how longtime New Orleanians think about it and what is it they like or don’t like about it.
    And what about Circle? The new design is a little odd but but the floor is less sticky and the smell of turtle blood or whatever the hell it was is gone but maybe I miss some of that. They have items no one else has in the sliver which I appreciate; things like mirlitons at the right time or turkey parts. I know they are doing a cool program with the local Crescent City farmers markets to incentivize the purchase of healthy foods with SNAP dollars and so they are clearly continuing their community work and sensitivity to low-income folks.

    I also wonder if the loss of full-scaled discount grocery stores is a trend that is just coming to NOLa and is already most other places; for example, a lot of chains such as CVS are selling packaged food more and more because the grocery store sector is a difficult profit-making venture. Of course, what is also does is to create 2 systems of food purchase: one for upscale people with ergonomic carts, massage therapists and lots of samples and another for the poor, with a few shelves shoved in between the seasonal items and the liquor with items that have a shelf life of decades…Certainly another issue that makes the idea of adding more goods in other types of stores for the sliver by the (down) river area is the lack of availability of large footprint buildings suitable to be redeveloped as grocery stores. Of course, somehow they make that problem a non-issue in the CBD and Uptown….
    But I also think that your peops in the piece are right in that the type of goods that will be sold in any stores that open from here on will be those that appeal to the new New Orleanians, under 30, who do not prioritize quality of selection or deep cultural offerings or face to face customer service, but instead prefer online, 1 click shopping and packaged meals with discounted price being a very low priority. The entire system they prefer actually is the exact opposite of the old New Orleans experience.
    But the other point you make about restaurants offering a valuable, healthy experience is important I think. There are more places that are drop-in easy, good and open most of the time. Is this an either or situation or is their some connectivity to good fare and the exponential growth of groceries? What I do know is that lack of options is a bad thing for regular people but something that we know all too well. Thanks for posting this piece.

  • Jjazznola

    I cannot blame anyone who would not want to go to NO East especially with all of the places to eat in this city.