Adios, Ultra Foods
Do fireflies prefer wet or dry summers? Can't say, but I did see the first fireflies of the season on Saturday evening. Just a handful, though. Maybe the dry summer so far will keep their numbers down, or maybe they're advance scouts for a firefly invasion.
Over years I've mentioned visiting a "discount grocery store" and almost each time it's been Ultra Foods of Hanover Park, Ill., one of a small local chain of stores anchoring a shopping center not far from where I live. From its parking lot, I saw a car floating in a pond; chanced across a box of Quisp there but didn't buy any; found peanut butter from Argentina there and did buy some; likewise some cookies from Columbia; bought domestic peanut butter for 88¢ a jar there during the peanut scare of early 2009; saw some shoplifters on a perp walk out of its doors; found Black Jack and Clove gum on its shelves; and more.
I got to know the place pretty well, in fact. Mostly I went there for its frequent discounts on soft drinks and a few other items, but we also enjoyed some of the deli's meats and cheeses, and the bakery's French bread and its doughnuts, some of which were very good.
Friday afternoon, I arrived to pick up some of these very items, though I'd noticed that there was no Ultra Foods circular in Wednesday's paper (the grocery circulars are, alas, one of the main reasons to hang on to the subscription). I figured it was left out by mistake.
But no: a sign at the Ultra Foods in Hanover Park said, THIS STORE IS CLOSING. EVERYTHING 20% OFF. What? That can't be right. Closing? Why? Didn't make its numbers? Lost its lease? I thought discount grocers had done well in the hard years since 2008, but it's always been true that the grocery business is a thin-margin high wire act.
The store had closed its bakery and deli, and was no longer restocking items that sold out. Certain aisles were practically empty. It was about as depressing as a grocery store can be without being visibly infested by rodents. One employee, a fellow about my age, was restocking some fruit, or maybe just re-arranging it. He looked miserable. I expect he was, since the ax hadn't fallen that long ago.
"When's the last day?" I asked my cashier, a young woman. She wasn't that upset, because she was going back to school in the fall anyway. She wasn't sure when the last day was, though. Whenever everything is sold off. Soon.
So long, Ultra Foods. I will not, as the sign also suggested, be visiting the Wheaton location, unless I happen to be there anyway. It's a fine store, but that's too far to go for groceries, especially the discount kind. Time to look elsewhere.