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Fighting for Fresh Produce

Clearly, produce is an afterthought at a local grocery store.

Tuesday night was guacamole night in the Wolf household, and you can’t make decent guacamole without decent cilantro.

I can deal with a tiny bunch. I can deal with a picked-over bunch. What I can’t deal with is mushy, brown, wet and stinky cilantro.  And tonight, that’s what I got at Jewel…er...that’s what I chose NOT to get.

A very kind man with a German accent saw my horror as I held up the last of two bunches of thick and slimy cilantro. He said, “You do know?  You can go to da Whole Foods?  Day have da good produce.”

I wanted to scream, “Whole Paycheck? Yes, I know they do.”  Instead, I put the cilantro back and walked away (and not because he was German.  My husband is German, though he doesn’t like German-chocolate cake.  Awkward.).

I gave up Tuesday's guacamole dream, and made club sandwiches instead.  Life goes on.  Bigger fish to fry, yaddah yaddah. 

On my way home, without my cilantro, I thought about how many comments I’ve heard from friends about Jewel, things like,

“You seriously shop there?”

“I avoid it at all costs.”

“I can’t find anything there.”

“The lines are always so long.”

“Jewel? Why?”

Maybe it’s because I live within walking distance.  Maybe it’s because, after three children, I’ve memorized the Osco Pharmacy number -- though, to be honest, what ever happened to neighborhood pharmasists?  I've been coming to this Osco for over thirteen years: never once has a single pharmasist there said, "Hi, Mrs. Wolf.  Another ear infection?  Here's your Z-pack."   Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Midwest and know Jewel-Osco to be a familiar place to get what I need at a moment’s notice (including carrots, butter, light bulbs, a bottle of wine, Advil, two tomatoes, a bottle of wine or a bunch of cilantro). 

Okay.  Not everyone loves cilantro.  I get that. 

Maybe the produce employees at Jewel  fall into this category!  Maybe they’re cilantro-haters and refuse to put out the fresh, leafy bunches!

The point is, a neighborhood grocery should show a little more pride.  When I shop at Jewel, I frequently bag my own groceries because there's usually a shortage of baggers (are they outside gathering the carts?).  When I've asked a meat department employee what a good substitute is for flank steak (because they were out of flank steak), the answer was, "You know?  I'm not really sure..."

If I want amazing produce, I know to go to Skokie's Marketplace on Oakton or either one of our two Whole Foods.  Evanston might not have riverboat casinos (yet!), but we've sure got our own form of "produce gambling":  just head to the Jewel-Osco on Chicago Avenue and cross your fingers.

To the Jewel-Osco gods:  We appreciate the convenience and longevity of a Midwestern hallmark like Jewel.  However – we're not enticed by your dual-Redbox-video offerings or your newfangled touchscreen self-checkout lane.  All I want is decent produce.  If you offer a produce aisle, offer something more than what my daughter feeds to her rabbit. 

Brad April 27, 2011 at 07:47 PM
I live in a small town with a neighborhood pharmacist. Be careful what you ask for. There's nothing more maddening than being out of Benadryl at 7PM and your daughter eats something she shouldn't have. You see, if your kid is sick after 7PM (2PM on the weekend), you're headed to to the next town and their Osco/CVS/Walgreen's because your small town folks are afraid of 'change'.
Rhonda April 27, 2011 at 10:12 PM
I agree that that particular Jewel is sub par on many levels. The one on Green Bay Rd in Wilmette is better and the one of Skokie Blvd near Golf is better yet. I won't shop at Dominicks because I find it to be quite a bit more expensive than Jewel. For the best & most reasonably priced produce and deli items, I go to Village Market on Dempster and Crawford - it's a gem - an old-fashioned, neighborhood grocery store with wonderful ethnic foods as a bonus!
victoria smith May 02, 2011 at 12:17 PM
Go to Food For Less! You won't be sorry that you did!
victoria smith May 02, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Food for Less has fantastic produce and many interesting items, very good meat and deli section. name brands and Kroger brands. Clean and staff very helpful and you will save alot of money. No complaints about this store, but I know that there are alot of grocery store snobs out there that would never set foot in Food for Less for reasons I will not disclose, but if you want what all of you are complaining about you should give it a try. I do stop off at Jewel for their great floral section and a few items on my way home from work, but other than that I don't do bulk shopping at any of the other three stores in Evanston. And no, Food for less is not a Sam's Club, but you do have to bag your own, but then again if Evanston does away with the plastic your going to have to start anyway!!!
Christine Wolf May 05, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Evanston's Chicago Avenue Jewel-Osco manager Dave Tumminello contacted me immediately following several emails I sent to the grocer's customer service website regarding community complaints about the level of service offered at the store. Tumminello shared that he's been the manager for one year and is working to turn things around at the store. He knows there are still things to improve, but that the feedback has been positive since he's arrived (if you're interested, customers can "grade" their shopping experience by completing survey information found on their Jewel-Osco receipts). Tumminello mentioned he'd hired a new produce manager who started Monday, 4/25; he hopes to see the quality and service of that department improve immediately. He also reports he's been working with the alderman to improve the store's presence in the neighborhood, including hiring high school students. As for other community involvement, Tumminello mentioned the store's active (though largely unseen) donations to local food pantries and sponsorships of philanthropic and sporting events throughout the area. Recently, Jewel-Osco became a sponsor of local baseball and soccer teams. He adds he'd like to do more in the community, and that suggestions and requests are always welcome. Tumminello also contacted Jewel-Osco corporate headquarters to request to have an AED device installed.

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