A Throwback

April 4, 2007

As far as grocery stores go, the Sobey’s (formerly IGA) on 51 avenue and 111 street (Pleasantview) is something of an anachronism; an out-of-place, dilapidated throwback to 80’s-era grocery stores. They’ve spruced-up the exterior sign with a new one, but inside it’s the way it has been for the last twenty years. Maybe I’m off my tree tonight, but I find it comforting that my old grocery store hasn’t changed a lick. Change happens all the time everywhere so it’s very inspiring when something – even something as mundane as a grocery store – doesn’t change. Kinda like that old friend from high school that still has a mullet.

I walk in and I’m hit by that classic grocery store smell. I don’t know how to describe it except that it’s like when I was five and my Mom dragged me to Safeway every Tuesday. Smells like produce and packaging. It’s a small store, probably a quarter of the size of a Superstore or Save On. Despite the size, they sell everything that a guy truly needs. The place is just run down enough to have real character. The produce bins are chipped and matted. The tills are modified old-school models with big CRT screens mounted on wooden planks above the register. The meat dept. has one of those old-time glass counters that you never see any more. In short, she’s a beaut. I throw a couple things into my basket and set out to get a gander at a few of my fellow night shoppers. The old woman in the dark navy pea coat looks like she’s been coming here for thirty years. The housewife over there is staring intently at a jar of peanut butter, her runners dirty and her brownish hair just slightly a-tussle. There’s a pen-thin hipster with white cords from his ears in the chip aisle eyeing up a bottle of salsa and a bag of Tostitos. Over in the produce section, a middle-aged man in a brown suit pokes a head of cabbage and wipes his nose on his sleeve. I grab my cukes and romas and continue on, looking for nothing in particular and content to wander and observe my fellow shoppers.

At the till and nobody’s in line. Considering that today is 10% Tuesday, the store is dead. Must be the swanky new Safeway across the street. Seems everyone goes for the flashing lights these days. For my time and money, I’m content to hang out in the back 40 at a place like Pleasantview Sobey’s. I may not be able to buy a jar of Mango Salsa or a sleeve of square bagels, but I can pick up a stick of Old Spice and a jug of Clamato just fine. And that’s all that really counts, right?

Vignette #181

6 reader comments (closed)



I happen to like the IGA on 99th street and about 87th avenue. It’s a dump and it’s small, but they have everything.

Apr 05, 2007 • 14:57


ink slinger

I love those old IGAs! The 99th and 87th one that Rich mentions is a classic, as is the one on 82nd Street on the north side (not sure what Ave it’s on…used to be called Cliff’s IGA, not sure if it’s succumbed to the Sobey’s takeover or not). And, finally, the one in Ottewell, which is a tad bigger than the other two, but still has that old school charm.

Maybe it’s the fact that those old, unchanging IGAs feel as though they’re very much a fixture in the communities they serve that makes them feel so “charming.” It’s almost like a small piece of small town life in the city.

There’s also a Save On Foods down near the Muni/Kingsway area that’s got a real old school look to it. It’s a monster-sized store (the book and magazine section is almost large enough to operate as a stand alone book store), but it’s still got all the tacky old neon signage (1950s Modernism at its worst). It doesn’t really have that same community feel to it, but I love going in there from time to time, just to buy a litre of milk or something, because I love the look of the place.

Apr 08, 2007 • 14:52



I know that Save On. It’s one of the older ones in the city. Haven’t been there in some time. Might be time for a visit.

And yeah, the IGA in Ottewell is an all-time classic. It’s like time has stood still in that place.

Apr 09, 2007 • 01:30



The IGA on 106 Ave and 50 Street is still IGA! And it’s old as shit. I always find it an anachronism when I go into that store and see some cute, young woman working the till and I want to flirt with her desperately, but I’m usually buying something totally embarassing at which point I feel compelled, compelled, I tell you to defend my self in her mocking eyes:

Yes that is my fresh linen Glade scented candle! No I am not a sissy! I don’t have to stand for this bullshit! Just ring this shit up!

If I follow it up with:

Oh, and can I have your phone number?

It doesn’t work 9 times out of 10. But that 1 time that it does work….WOW!

I think that might be why I do most of my grocery shopping out of the trunks of those shady people who lurk in parking lots and outside porno shops. The produce is usually sub-par and doesn’t smell like produce, but they know damn well to leave a man and his scented candle alone.

Apr 11, 2007 • 06:13



“Scented candle”, eh Mikey? The question in everyone’s mind is this: Just what do you do with that scented candle?

Apr 11, 2007 • 15:43



I make my bedroom smell like fresh linen. It distracts the nose from the stale linen that covers the pile of rocks and old potato sacks that I call my bed.

Apr 11, 2007 • 15:54

Stu's Van, March 2007

Stu's Van, March 2007



StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.

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