Sunday, December 14, 2008


I looked out the window last night and saw men working on taking down the Vons sign.The red plastic cover was already off the "S". A neighborhood store that served the community for decades, was being dismantled under cover of darkness. I grabbed my camera and dashed across the street to capture the final moments but by the time I crossed the street the men had lowered the cherry picker. I missed my action shot and just stood in the night watching through the gate.

Feeling bummed, I walked back across the street and took one last glance, and there it was again, up by the sign. Too far in now, off I went back across the street, steadied the camera on the gate and took the shot.

As the shutter closed I snapped one last shot, with the aperture open long enough to pierce the dark. As the picture snapped I thought something was wrong because all I saw through my view finder was black. In the moment it took for the shutter to close...the sign had gone dark. Vons was no more.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008


The Life Cycle of a Local Grocery Store: Vons, the adventure continues..

Life can be depressing. Sometimes it's your serotonin level...and sometimes it's not. These days I'm sure I am not alone in feeling a little bit of economic dread. Watching giants fall is one thing, but when it comes to your neighborhood, that's another thing. I'm not cutting through the cliches here fast enough, so let's start at the beginning:

I went shopping tonight, just a quick run to the local Von's for a bag of cat litter (pine chips of course). The store looked clean, but it wasn't any cleaner than usual, what it was...was...empty. There was a lot of vacant shelf space going on. I had a moment of hope, maybe the dreamed of re-model, a face lift for Von's, maybe even the elusive "Fresh Faire" upgrade, maybe we'd go full upscale and move straight to Pavillions.

But that moment was short lived as I came up to the check out stand and said "a little spring cleaning?". "We're closing" was the reply. No laugh, no sparkle in the eyes. "You are kidding right?" There was no answer. The manager standing nearby muttered "it's been coming, but we got the final word tonight"

Why would I feel my heart breaking a little bit? Von's and I had at best a love-hate relationship. I wryly called it my Ghetto-Von's. The store always had a down-on-its-luck feel. Once, when new to the neighborhood, I presciently talked with a manager about the inconvenience of locked cabinets for the toothpaste and Tylenol. He said "if it weren't locked up it would all be gone by tomorrow". My reply "but the people who come here to spend money won't come back".

When the big financial institutions started to collapse I rationalized (markets are self regulating, blah blah blah). When the foreclosures started I thought "well good thing I didn't buy a house". I didn't shed a tear when Payless Shoes and Linen's & Things closed their doors, and certainly not when Circuit City filed for bankruptcy. I actually gloated when WAMU fell (they screwed me when I needed them most).

But tonight, at the checkout stand, it all came home for me. "They can't close "my" store", I said to myself, if they do that it might all be real.