I think I love Thrifty Foods.
All of the sudden there are a lot of grocery options in New Westminster. No less than three Safeways, all of them of the recent-design mega-big variety; a Save-On-Foods of the slightly-too-compact urban style, an IGA that is seemingly a little crowded out and increasingly out of the way, along with Donald’s at the River Market and other smaller boutique-type options. Notably, Thrifty’s is the only Grocery spot in Sapperton (7-11 excepted, of course). The only grocery deadzone appears to be Queensborough (although, someone might tell me they have groceries in Wal-Mart: I’ll never know).
I have nothing against Safeway, and think their willingness to put a storefront on a Transit mall is a bold move worthy of praise, but I generally find their prices a little high, and their approach a little too “corporate”. I am “personally” thanked by checkers, with few of them taking to time to look at my actual name before saying, blankly, “Thank You Mr. Moose” (A Safeway Card under the name Space Moose was a bit of culture-jamming I engaged in a few years back. Note, if William Jefferson Clinton wins a big prize in one of those Save-on-More Card contests, I’m not sure how hard it will be to collect. But it makes my junk mail more interesting).
Alas, we tend to buy our groceries within walking distance, which means the Save-on-Foods with its less-than-optimal aisle widths, it’s strange practice of labelling all of its fruit as multi-origin (“Apples: USA/Canada”), and its distinct paucity of humans working the checkouts.
Aside: Look, the automatic checkout is never faster or more convenient for the shopper than having a person check your food, unless there are not enough checkout staff. If you think I can enter the code for apples (fuji or ambrosia? ) or lettuce (green leaf or romaine?), operate a bar-code scanner, and fill a grocery bag faster or more efficiently than someone who does it 8 hours a day, you are crazy. Essentially, Jimmy Pattison is getting me to do the work of his staff – because he doesn’t have to pay me. . –end rant
I would be remiss to also point out that Ms.NWimby does most of the grocery shopping for the household. This is mostly because of her advanced ability to shop ahead a week (instead of my tendency to buy for today and tomorrow), but also because she found me no fun to shop with, as I am generally an ornery retail customer (having grown up working in retail and having high customer-service expectations) and not much fun to be around when assaulted by bad retail decisions.
For smaller “just-pick-up-a-few-things” trips, I tend to run up to the Uptown Market on 6th – a small shop that always impresses me with their variety, quality, and customer service. In the summer, the drive to buy local often leads us to Hop-On Farms on Marine Drive- for garden-fresh produce. Weekly trips to the Royal City Farmers Market just about rounds out or grocery experience.
So I have only been in Thrifty’s a few times, but I might need to start about making it the usual – maybe I’ll buy a cargo bike, and take some of the load off of Ms.NWimby. The thing about Thrifty’s is that it is everything I like: they have a good mix of basic groceries and higher-end fancy stuff. They have a nice produce section, and I know what is being grown domestically. The space itself is expansive and comfortable, the lighting is soft and organic. I’m not assaulted by offers to save more by buying more than I need. And when I am done shopping, an actual human being helps ring up my purchase. In fact, there are actual human beings working throughout the store – unobtrusive but helpful. I just wish it was walking distance.
I hope (and expect) that Thrifty’s will prosper in Sapperton, even though it is currently neigh-impossible for many Sapperton folks to walk there. And here is where my second rant of the blog post begins:
The City of New Westminster has, as I have noted many times before, a Pedestrian Charter. The Charter says that the City puts a high value on pedestrian safety and access, and that walking will be prioritized over other forms of transportation within the community.
Meanwhile, for the entire time Thrifty’s has been open, the sidewalk leading north from Thrifty’s up Columbia Street has been closed to pedestrians, with no accommodation made for safe passage of those on foot. People walking down Columbia from Royal Columbian Hospital or any other business in Sapperton (not to mention about 70% of the residences in Sapperton), need to cross Columbia for a block, then cross back at Simpson Street to get to Thrifty’s.
This might be a minor nuisance, except there is no safe crosswalk at Simpson Street! Right where Thrifty’s entrance/exit abuts the “closed” sidewalk, there is nary a street sign, paint on the ground, pedestrian sign, flashing light on anything to facilitate the safe crossing of the street. I stood there on a recent Sunday afternoon, and watched as people (young, old, single, groups, adults and children) walked out of the store, and made the choice between weaving through the “no pedestrian zone” barriers and tape (there was no active construction happening) or braving an unmarked crossing of a busy street while laden with groceries. Never did I see a car stop to let people cross. Even with light Sunday traffic, it was a terrible situation.
Problem is, it has been like this for months – has no-one in the City recognized this problem? I know I brought it to the attention to someone on staff two months ago, but nothing seems to have been done. Of course, I shouldn’t have to bring it to the attention of staff: when the sidewalk closure was approved to facilitate ongoing construction on the Brewery District site, was no though paid to how people were going to get past the site, to the one significant pedestrian destination south of the site? That is what a community with a Pedestrian Charter should look like. A crosswalk would take $100 worth of paint, the contractor building the new building should have to pay for it.
Or, for an example of what should have been done, walk up to Uptown Property Group’s development on 6th Ave and 5th Street and look at the hoarding arrangement there. There are concrete blocks and scaffolding cover to protect pedestrians from construction and from passing cars during construction. The point is, pedestrians are accommodated as important road users, and are not forced to cross the road unsafely (although, I note, there are marked crosswalks at every intersection near there to improve safety there as well). What’s good for Uptown should be good for Sapperton.
I just wish there was a Thrifty’s Uptown.