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The Original Urban Cheapskate Meets His Brooklyn Neighbor, Whole Foods Gowanus. Part 1 of A Continuing Tale


It finally happened.  I patronized the long-in-arriving Whole Foods in Gowanus Brooklyn.

WhF-G has been scheduled to open in a lovely
location at 3rd Ave and 3rd St right on the edge of the Gowanus Canal
Superfund site since before I moved here almost nine years ago, so it
was a bit of a surprise when construction actually began in 2013.  It
was more of a surprise in early December to see a sign in front of the
site saying “opening December 17”!  I may have left it with “there
goes the neighborhood”, but a visit to the doctor plus a step onto the
scale in November informed me that my cholesterol and weight were both
too high, and it might behoove me to abandon my beloved, simple,
elegant, economical diet of sourdough bread, peanut butter and lowfat
cheese. Perhaps WhF-G could help me in my quest for positive
life-style change.

I couldn’t make the Grand Opening date, but when I decompressed from
my whirlwind tour of California, and the temperature had gone up to a
sweltering 30°, I decided to make the trip.  A short 9-block walk from
my home (no I didn’t ride my bike.  I try to avoid the suicide strip
of 3rd Ave and any alternate route would add a couple of miles.)

The first thing I could see was the place is designed to be driven to.
There’s a big old parking lot and the main door is not on the street.
You actually have to go up a wheelchair ramp/stair from the street,
but for all I know the entire building is resting on a pad that
insulates it from Gowanus pollution.

I strode right in the welcoming entrance, walking across a chalked
floor-ad for today’s special on ground beef.  A pile of bags of
satsuma mandarins for $5.99 was tempting, if only because I could
pretend I was at a California farmers market.  Grabbed my basket.  It
had handles oriented in different directions.   I figured out which
one worked, and left the atrium to partake of the Whole Shopping

The inner doors debouched directly into the produce section.
Excellent omen — the majority of purchasables I was seeking were
fruits and veggies.  Tangelos at 1.99 a pound.  Yes!  I found the
plasticproducebagdispenser, unraveled a bag, and dumped some tangelos
in.  On to the apples.  It’s been so cold I haven’t been able to get
apples at the farmers market, plus i wanted to see if WhF has what no
other supermarket I’ve found does: fantastic apples.  Cameos for 2.49.
From Washington state.  FrmrsMrkt price $1-$2.  I’ll get some for
research purposes.  The plasticproducebags are narrow but quite deep,
and I’m sure I bruised my apples dropping them them in on top of each
other.  One lemon and onto the veggies.  Decided to go for the baby
carrots in a bag for 1.99 , mainly because when I buy regular carrots
I eat em all up right away.  Spinach, red leaf lettuce, snap peas, a
huge leek.  Grape tomatoes for 3.49 for a little box.

About that time I realized what that other funny handle on the basket
was.  The basket has little wheelies at one end, and when you extend
that other handle, you can drag the basket along the floor just like
tourists with their wheelie suitcases invading formerly idyllic
wilderness areas.  Very clever marketing — if you just carry the
basket, you’re quite aware of how heavy it is getting, and your
Iveboughtenough alarm might go off.  When you’re dragging it along the
floor, weight is no obstacle.  Then it was on to the other sections,
where I found tofu for 1.99, WhF brand garlic hummus for 1.99 and
fat-free plain yogurt for 1.99.  All fantastic prices.   I checked out
the Bread Zone.  Even though I’m cutting down on bread, I really
wanted a sourdough roll.  The only unlabelled bin might have had them,
so I decided to pass.

Time to imbibe the checkout experience.  Here for the first time I was
disappointed.  A visit to the Union Square WhF is worth it just for
the checkout process.  An automated light system tells each linewaiter
which cashier to proceed to.  Alas, here it’s just like your average
supermarket.  You takes your chances, cast your fate to the wind, and
get on some random line.*   I hadn’t counted the number of items in my
basket, so I went for a nonexpress line.  I had a hard time telling
the cashier and the marvelously eager bagstuffers that I wanted half
my groceries in a bag and I’d put the other half in my backpack.  But
we got that straightened out, after also making her untie the bag of
apples she had tied.  It took her two minutes, even with fingernails.
I wonder if, during this process, she figured out why I didn’t want my
bag tied in a knot.

Happily loaded, I made the quick walk home and inspected my booty and
my receipt.**  My haul included magnificent double “Go Green” paper
shopping bag, which I could sell on the street in certain California
cities for 10¢ or more, and for which I received in the
who’s-bagging-what confusion a refund of 10¢, netting me a potential
gain of 20¢!  You can take that to the credit union.  I also had a
bunch of recyclable produce bags!  The snap peas were kinda tough and
a little more than I wanted to spend.  The carrots, tangelos, lettuce,
leek and spinach were great.  The grape tomatoes were more than I
wanted to spend but they were edible.  Edible tomatoes in January in
NY for any price are a miracle.  So I ain’t complaining, even though I
fondly recall the incredible cherry tomatoes I got at the FrmrsMrkt in
Oakland two weeks ago.  The only item that seemed overpriced was the
spinach, until I realized I had stuffed two bunches into my bag.   The
apples were … ok, but Fantastic Apples seem to be remain unavailable
in standard retail outlets.  I think WhF could do better than sell
Washington apples in New York, but wtf.  Since farmers market apples
are the only reason for anyone to live in NY in the winter,  I guess
I’ll have to put ice tires on my bike so I can bike to all the farmers
markets in the region.

The next day, fate brought me to my neighborhood CTown (former
residents of NYC please note, CTown of the twentyteens ain’t CTown of
a previous millennium.)   There I found grape tomatoes, just as
edible, for 2.00 a box and baby carrots for 1.50.  Now will I have to
divide up my shopping even more?

There you have it.  This will have to do until spring comes, or I o.d.
on apples and decide to jump on my bike and head for Florida to get
fresh citrus and tomatoes before heading to Mexico for pineapples and

In the meantime, please don’t tell my friend E-lizz that I shopped at
WhF instead of the Park Slope Food Coop.  She’s been leaning on me
heavily to join, and I don’t have much excuse except it’s twice as far
as WhF from my home.

Does anybody know the difference between cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes?

*  Sorry.  If I used the phrase “get in line” I would risk being
evicted permanently from the Greater New York Metropolitan Area.
** Not this booty.  That booty.

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