Obviously a big part of getting settled is figuring out where to obtain food and coffee. There is a Kroger here in town, with which I am familiar from my college days, and there’s a co-op, but I hear it’s very small and I haven’t been there yet. The grocery scene in every Michigan town I’ve been to so far is DOMINATED by Meijer.
For you Badgers, imagine Woodman’s and ShopKo smashed together, but with better lighting and fresher produce. Just as Ford revolutionized the way factories worked, Meijer seems to have been one of the first supermarkets as we know them today, being one of the first to introduce shopping carts, and successfully tackling food-nonfood in the same store some 40 years before WalMart. Meijer is where I can get ridiculously cheap loratadine and local honey; by their powers combined, perhaps I can stop walking around the house carrying a box of kleenex from room to room, as I have been doing ever since the dry spell ended here. (Kleenex also from Meijer.)
While I love small stores, and I do plan to join the co-op (there are just certain things I always get there if I can), I have to say some strange frontierswoman-cowgirl part of me really likes having the freedom to anonymously shop at 3 am if I choose to. Honestly: it was one thing I had a strong urge to do after returning from my semester abroad in college, where all shopping had to be done during the business day. (I know there are others like me out there!) Plus Meijer is still Michigan-based, and some of their locations are unionized.
Michigan is turning out to be, on the whole, similar to Wisconsin in culture and politics. I would say the residents here have stronger buy-local pride than in Wisconsin, I’m sure due in large part to the presence of the auto industry.
The other retailer that is inescapable here is Biggby, a coffee chain based right here in East Lansing. There is a legend that Biggby and Espresso Royale were once sister stores, and the owners split up and created the two very different chains. I could believe that; they are about as opposite as coffee stores come, Espresso bordering on snooty. However, I don’t think it’s true, as Biggby started around 1995 and Espresso was already firmly established in Madison when I was in middle school.
How to describe Biggby?? The first time I was in one, I said that I felt like I was actually in a Dairy Queen. I think if Paula Deen bought Starbucks, Biggby would be the result.
Give that photo a click. Notice how normal coffee is all the way on the right, at the bottom? If it’s your first time, you stand mouth agape in front of the cashier trying to take it all in, until you finally blurt out that you’ll take a Teddy Carmel Mint Chip Something Something, because you can’t process all the bright colors fast enough. If it’s not your first time, you own up and order a grande frozen Sugar Bear, because let’s be honest, that’s why you came here isn’t it? You want coffee? That’s why god invented gas stations.