I made my last weekly stop at Ukrop's Friday, my shopping colored as it has been for the past month by the melancholy that accompanied the announcement of the store's October closing.
That closing took place yesterday afternoon.
Now the rhythms of my weekly trips to Roanoke will change, and I'll miss the cheerfulness and sheer pleasantness of Ukrop's. I've never enjoyed a grocery store more.
The ppostmortems exploring the store's failure have tended to focus on the chain's Sunday closings and lack of alcohol sales. Maybe so.
But what's been missing from most of those postmortems in the papers and on TV, has been the enjoyment that so many of Ukrop's customers felt when shopping there. Clearly there weren't enough customers, but those did shop at Ukrop's took pleasure in it.
Some of that was the quality of the store's food; prepared foods, meats, and produce especially stood out.
Some of it, though, was the sense I got in conversations with other customers that we wanted to be there. Many of us went out of our way to trade with Ukrop's, and for some items paid a little more (though less of a markup than at some specialty stores still in business).
I got the sense as well that the store's employees wanted to be there too. Glad to have jobs in this economy, they seemed particularly glad to have these particular jobs with this particular company.
The ambiance of the Ivy Market store played its part as well. Layout and especially lighting were warm and welcoming, softer and at the same time more illuminating than is typical of grocery stores.
That illumination shined with sadness on Friday — so many of the shelves were already bare, and would not be re-stocked.
Over the past two years, I felt good when I entered Ukrop's and was generally smiling when, after shopping and, more often than not, enjoying a conversation with store employees and other shoppers, was smiling broadly when I left.
Except for this past Friday, when I didn't have a smile in me as I left Ukrop's for the last time.
Keith: Sad to say that I shopped at Ukrop's for the first time on the day before it closed and I, frankly, enjoyed it. Picked up some store-made cole slaw that was spot-on and bought three slices of store-made pizza that my wife loved. Good shopping experiences are, indeed, rare these days. More's the pity that we lose one that was enjoyed by so many. Dan