Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

When I first moved to this little farm town, we had no proper grocery store, just corner markets. Actually, we boasted no larger stores at all! We had to travel to Greenfield to shop at Nob Hill or buy everything in Salinas before we commuted home. When our very own shopping center was under construction and a large household name grocery and drug store put into place, the smaller shopkeepers were not surprisingly alarmed; but look, they are mostly still here! They have developed their niche; they’ve learned that to survive, you have to diversify.

Some carry nice fresh produce, others a decent meat counter, many some down-home friendly service you might not find in a larger establishment. Chain restaurants came into town, but look again, our small, local eateries are still here. Competition is good — it makes all of us better at what we do.

I was excited when I heard that Grocery Outlet was coming — finally, an increased choice in our grocery shopping options! Where there is little to no competition, a lackadaisical attitude can set in that does not promote very good customer service or quality products. At times in our larger grocery store, you could find yourself wishing you had gone to the corner market that time instead. OK, so maybe the choices are not all there, but you could certainly make do with what was there, and you would be out of there in way less time. What price is our time?

I also got tired of the large-name drug store and its long lines and excessive prices with empty shelves looking like no one could really care less. I moved my account to a local store where they know my name and can be informed and interested about my healthcare needs. You don’t mind paying a bit extra for that.

And here we are. The new grocery store is open and there are nice extra choices to be found — not to mention different types of cheese and wine that we enjoy, also a wider selection of pet food and dog treats that we so appreciate. I believe there’s room for both stores — I really do.

Not having found some of the things on my list at the new store, I went over to the old one. I was very disappointed. The shelves were pretty bare, loading carts were in the aisle, blocking your vision and accessibility, and there were not many people on the floor or working the tills. You would think that they would be on their best behavior, with their very best foot forward, now the new store is open and ready to steal their customers! With the other little towns passing by each day and easy on and off access for shopping, I think ultimately that both the stores will continue to do just fine.

And now they say that we will have a Ross Dress for Less location, Famous Footwear, Wing Stop, Panda Express and more in the same location! We are becoming quite the happening little place that was illustrated on the shirt and billboard years ago and laughed at by most, when, seriously, there was very little happening in Soledad. The powers that be are making it so that South County can keep their sales tax dollars more local, finally, and that has to be a win-win for all. Keep jobs and money and tax local — that will be helpful for all of us.

And don’t forget about the Tuesday specials at the movie theater in Soledad — that makes me so very happy! I love to go to the movies and appreciate it so much that they are here on my back step and making efforts to earn our business. With the Oscars showing on the television this weekend, I shall be scrutinizing the winners and seeing what I’d like to see in the coming weeks at my local theater on the big screen. Support local — it is so very important!

For my part, during the foreclosure epidemic, all kinds of real estate entities moved into town and thought they would steal others’ businesses. I remember being a little confused by how much business they thought was really here at the time. These wealth seekers came in, looked around, did a little business — not all good — and, mostly, left. There wasn’t a darn thing any of us could do about it — competition is legal in the western world, and it is mostly a good thing. It keeps all of us on our toes.

Our company is still here in business where we were when Mary Poppins and her entourage floated into town and then rapidly left. And so are many other local businesses. When so-called competition arrives in town on the stagecoach, we just saddle up, tighten our boot strings and get better at what we do. It’s a true story the world over.

So I’m thrilled that we will now have more choices for our people in this town. I’m delighted that the other smaller towns nearby will likely stop by into our little town and spend their money here. I’m so happy that there will be jobs for people who want to work locally and occupations for our young people to earn a little cash and, in turn, help their families.

This is the wonderful sign of a growing community that keeps pushing up like the crops in our fields on our luscious valley below. We are so lucky to live where we do and, increasingly, we don’t need to go anywhere else to run our errands — buy our shoes and clothes, find some international cheeses, get some decent physiotherapy, or new tires, and go to the movies. I call that a great sign of progress in a small community and I want to commend all the folks who had a hand in this for a job very well done.

When I look back to when I bought a home here nearly 22 years ago, this is an almost unrecognizable place — yet, it remains totally recognizable and is still a nice place to live.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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