Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Lights go out at Marshall IGA

If I'd stayed at home over the weekend, rather than going to Baltimore, my plans had been to attend the closing of the IGA store in town, a tragic event for me and I'm sure, many others in the area. They had announced this a couple of months ago, after 57 years in business, and although sad news, it didn't really come as a surprise, since it had fierce competition with Food Lion and the new Walmart in Haymarket.
I remember fondly the first day I visited this store. It looked old fashioned from the outside and remained so inside, with its original shelving, folding tables and dated decor. But I liked the atmosphere immediately. It had an old, unhurried, but solid feel to it and I was drawn in. There was fresh fruit and vegetables from local farmers, eggs from geese and ducks as well as the usual chickens, locally produced meat and bakery products, and a wealth of never seen before food stuffs on the shelves. There were even quite a few British products that I would purchase from here, including Marmite, Oxo cubes, Ryvita and other biscuits. It was quite expensive, which prevented me from shopping here more frequently, but I often popped in, craving food that hadn't been processed.
Since I knew they were closing, and after this article appeared in the local newspaper, I snapped a few photos for the archives, sad that I'd never walk these aisles again.
On my first visit, I had thought this deli to be dingy until I realized the wonders that were produced from behind it. There had been a lunchtime queue of folks, about 10 deep, and I had watched with interest to see what the fuss was all about. I soon noticed that it was the Call of the Fried Chicken. Everyone was ordering the stuff so I followed suit and ordered a couple of pieces myself. The delicious wafts emitting from the box on the front seat of my car had tantalized me all the way home, driving me to a frenzy as I rushed to grab paper towels and plate before I could sit down and open the lid. Kota sat right next to me with his nose and twitching whiskers working overtime.
It had been delicious, a wonderfully crispy and perfectly seasoned coating over tender, tasty, chunky chicken meat. We both looked with yearning at the empty box afterwards, and so our addiction had been born. This was the best fried chicken I'd ever tasted.
The last bakery products for sale, and the butcher's display on the right.
The dairy and egg corner, with the eggs already nearly sold out.
This had once been the pharmacy section. Folks had wondered when this had closed a few weeks previously whether it was the beginning of the end. It had been a great place for cards though, much more of a selection than Food Lion nearby.
This had been a quirky corner, with VA clothing for sale, flip flops, nail polish, some garden and household gadgets, and string.
The one and only IGA poster in the store, hidden at the back.
The frozen food cabinets looking empty and the crackers diminishing.
I bought this last pack of Penguin biscuits, a favorite during my childhood.
And my penultimate grocery shop, with my IGA carrier bags and receipt.
The lunch area where folks would wait for their chicken to be cooked or sit to demolish it, using the utensils, napkins and condiments supplied by IGA.
The delectable chicken itself. Having had the sumptuous pleasure of numerous meals of this perfect poultry, it's been impossible to even contemplate the flavorless, chemical infested offerings from KFC or Popeye's. I've been lamenting about how I would ever find fried chicken that I would enjoy again. Pam, who is the soul creator of this culinary bliss, informed me that she hadn't got the funds to set up on her own once the store was closed, and I left with a heavy heart, unwilling to consider the possibility that this chicken would never be savored again, except by friends and family of Pam.
The last sales pitch on the IGA sign.
Because I was not going to be around on Saturday, I dropped by on Friday evening, hoping to partake in a last supper of fried chicken. I'd even left work early to get here in time. I was pleased to see quite a few cars outside, an indication that the town was rallying round and helping to clear the last goodies from the store's shelves.
They'd done a good job too, there was barely anything left. I grabbed a last 6 pack of beer and walked to the back of the store.
The prep room was still and empty, never to be used again for cutting meat or preparing foods. I remembered one Saturday morning when I popped in for milk and had seen a large crowd in this room and spilling out of the doorway. A butcher was showing those that hunted or were learning to hunt how to dress a deer. You wouldn't see that scene in Walmart!
I walked to the Deli and asked PAm if she had any chicken, nearly collapsing in a sorrowful heap when she replied, 'No.' I couldn't understand the lack of concern in her voice either but had no time to dwell on that as she turned to me and cheerfully told me I could get some on Sunday. She smiled at my perplexed face and explained that she would be working from Nick's Deli at the other end of Main St. I slapped the counter with my hand, overjoyed, and my dismay at not being able to have fried chicken for dinner evaporated. I'd have a bottle of wine instead!
I walked to the register, there really wasn't much else that I could purchase, the shelves were nearly picked clean. The bakery and tinned products sections still had items for sale, but everything that had been unique to this IGA store was gone. I've now got to find another source for my Lapsang Souchong teabags, among many other items.
It was very sad going through the register for the last time but it was made easier when I realized that the staff didn't seem too upset. I had mentioned on a previous visit that I would miss them, but they hadn't seemed too troubled. I guess they were ready to retire. But it's the end of an era, yet another country store with old fashioned values closing its doors, and it's this that will be missed. I wish I could have afforded to shop here more often but I don't necessarily know that more business would have ensured the doors remained open. The Trumbo's deserve their retirement and I'm just very grateful that I was able to enjoy a part of this 'old tired store' 'that had run its course', as Mr Trumbo sadly referred to it,
I shall always think of the IGA as being the gem that fell out of the ring, with the ring being Marshall. Some sparkle left the town on Saturday...

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