This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 10, 2003 7:58 AM. The previous post in this blog was Uplifting Story of the Day. The next post in this blog is What if?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, February 10, 2003

Yes, we have no bananas

My daughter and I stopped off on the way home from church yesterday at Irvington Market, a local specialty market, for some sandwich fixings. I'd been talking about turkey sandwiches with lettuce and tomato all morning. As we entered the store, we were shocked and dismayed to find the entire produce section closed down, packed up, and gone. The operator of the fruit and vegetable franchise, Porcini Produce, has called it quits. All that was left for sale were the fixtures of the once-proud operation. The other portions of the market -- the fish store, the deli, the juice bar, the coffee shop -- were all up and functioning. But the splendid produce was the heart of the market, and its absence gives the rest of the store a forlorn look and feel.

I had suspected for a while that the days of the produce operation might be numbered. Construction is scheduled to begin soon on a new mixed residential-retail development a few blocks away, on the site of the old abandoned Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor. Rumor has it that the first-floor tenant will be Zupan's, a specialty grocer that is developing into a small chain around town. When Zupan comes into a new neighborhood, other small grocers in the vicinity usually take a hit. Zupan's Southeast location in the Belmont Dairy put a dent in the produce aspect of Pastaworks on Hawthorne a few years ago, though when I last checked, Pastaworks was still hanging in there. Zupan's Southwest Macadam store may have even played a role in the death of the once-prosperous Burlingame Grocery on Terwilliger Boulevard. Police say the owner of Burlingame burned down his own business a while back. My last visit to his largely empty store one night before the fire indicated to me that the competition was hurting him.

But the Irvington produce shop has gone down long before Zupan arrived. Now it stands vacant and hollow, just down the street from another produce ghost, the Holladay Market. That once-prime retail space has dwindled down to next to nothing over the years, and there's no apparent program in place to bring it back.

With the economy the way it is, I doubt we'll be getting another produce shop in the Lloyd Center area before Zupan's opens. It's a treacherous business -- even Don Kruger, who founded the Irvington Market years ago, appears to have gotten out of it -- and I doubt that anyone will be ready to take up the challenge.

Perhaps the spectacular New Seasons Market up at 33rd Avenue and Killingsworth Street had something to do with the Porcini departure. That store's opening has coincided with a noticeable decrease in traffic at the Nature's/Wild Oats store at 15th Avenue and Fremont Street. Luckily for us consumers, the result of the competitive marketplace has been fantastic produce all year long. Right now we're into juicy peaches and strawberries that melt in your mouth, and this is February! Life is good. God bless America.

Anyway, my daughter and I finally got some serviceable lettuce and tomato at the friendly little convenience grocery at 15th Avenue and Brazee Street. We came home to Mama and had some turkey sandwiches that couldn't be beat. The fresh como bread from Grand Central Baking was perfect.

Over lunch, we bid a fond farewell to the produce people at Irvington Market. Many a great meal came from there.

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