The doors to the Salisbury Super Fresh slid shut for the last time today. The chain is struggling financially, and the store on College Avenue is one of the casualties of the reorganization. Sadly, even though the chain has known this was likely to happen for months, it did virtually nothing to support or prepare the employees, many of whom had been working there the entire 13 years the store was open.
The “Store Closing” sale certainly helped the corporate bottom line, though. The place buzzed like mosquitoes at a sunbather’s convention. “Everything Must Go” is a magnet for bargain-hunters. Why not buy extra rolls of paper towels and olive oil if they are 20-30-40% off? It’s not like the jars of salsa will go bad if you don’t open them until football season.
I made a swing through the place every week during the closing. There was an atmosphere of a scavenger hunt as shoppers browsed the aisles, seeking out bargains. Should they load up on spaghetti and salad dressing now at 30% off or gamble that the stuff will still be on the shelves when the price drops further? Oh, look! Margaritaville Coconut Shrimp is 40% off! Not something I usually buy, but with what I’m saving on the other stuff, I can splurge, right?
There is probably a government grant to be awarded for a study about what people buy and ignore when food is sold at a discount. I would’ve thought that cereals, cookies, diapers and baby products, jugs of fruit juice, cooking oils and baking staples, bacon and hot dogs would go fast. But those lasted until pretty close to the end of the run. The wine racks were cleaned out immediately, even though the discount never dropped below 20%. Toothpaste and dental floss – gone immediately. Personal care products – womens’ division – ample supplies. Contact lens supplies also lasted a while. At 30% off? I’m not going to need to buy any for months! But the cosmetics lasted a long time.
Throughout it all, there was the spectre of the employees quietly restocking as the minutes to their final paycheck ticked away. Many of them are familiar faces, people with names and families we’ve gotten to know. Most of them don’t have any future plans or much, if any, of a severance package. That knowledge put a damper on the fun. You avoided eye contact and you wondered if you should slip them a couple of dollars, the way you do with the homeless guy in west Salisbury who sits on Nanticoke Road with his dog. You asked about their future and wished them well, then slunk away a little guiltily.
When the signs read “Up to 90% Off!!” there wasn’t much left. A few packages of sauce for Indian meals, one last bottle of olive oil (I took it), some baby wipes, about two cases of frozen corn, and several boxes of gelato. The aisles of empty shelves seemed enormous and the place seemed so much brighter. Sounds echoed.
One of the employees told me the owner is actively looking for a tenant, and that the store almost has to be used as a grocery. She’s heard rumors, but wasn’t about to share them, darn it! I mentioned Harris Teeter, the wonderful theme park of food that has three stores in Delaware. But the demographics of Salisbury are different from Delaware’s upscale beach and retirement locales, so that’s not likely.
Which leaves the tantalizing hope…dare I say it? Trader Joe’s?