For the last few years, Julie and I have kept roughly the same routine for grocery shopping. On the weekend, we plan our meals for the week, assemble our shopping list in our shared Reminders list on our phones, then go shopping. Typically, we would first go to the Milk Pail, a local European-style market, to pick up most of our produce, then go to Safeway to fill in anything else that we couldn’t find. Occasionally, we would go to Trader Joe’s for tortillas or just pick up everything from Safeway, but we would end up at the Milk Pail at least every other week.
At least, that was our routine until they closed last month after 45 years in business.
The Mountain View community loved the Milk Pail, and in their last weeks, there were several celebrations and a ton of shoppers going in to get their last chance at frozen croissants, cheap onions, admittedly questionable strawberries, and various cheeses. I myself grabbed a couple sleeves of digestives, a jar of taramasalata, and miscellaneous cheeses.
Of course, the grocery shopping itself is quite replaceable. Within a block of the Milk Pail, there’s also a Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and Whole Foods. Maybe the prices aren’t the same, and maybe the cheese selection isn’t quite as good, but I’m sure I can find all of the ingredients that I would have wanted.
However, I feel like I have lost more than just a place to buy groceries, and many others agreed. When the Milk Pail was under threat of a shutdown due to encroaching real estate developers, the community made a big stand to keep their odd little market and forced a compromise. We got another 5 years of cheeses.
I think I’m reacting to the loss of a unique part of our routine. After my home and my office, the Milk Pail was the one of the places I went to most often, so it was engrained more deeply than, say, my favorite restaurant that I might go to every few months. And unlike a Safeway, the chain isn’t going to pop up somewhere else.
I have lived in the Bay Area since 2007, and those 12 years are the longest I have lived in one area. More specifically, I have lived in the same place for the last 7 years, which almost tops my stay at my parents’ house back in Texas. I don’t feel new around here anymore, but I am just getting to the point where I can see how things have changed.
Back in 2014, the entire San Antonio Shopping Center (around the Milk Pail) was redeveloped. A year or two ago, Google tore down the building where my first office was and built a fancy, new building. A few months ago, Mountain View finished construction on the community center in a nearby park. Each individual change is big enough to notice, but I quickly adjusted to the way things became.
And I’m sure I will do the same for the Milk Pail. It will become another story for me as I remember that grocery store with way too many cheeses, not particularly good stone fruit, and the cheapest tomatoes I had ever seen.
When I first came to the Bay Area for college, my parents drove across the country with me to help move in. We lugged a car full of things that frankly could mostly have been purchased here, but we did decide to pick up a few things locally, like groceries. I’m not sure how we found it, but across the street from the Safeway, we spied a tiny, local market and decided to go in. I ended up buying a container of local honey to help adapt to local allergies, and I largely forgot about it for the rest of college until it became a part of my weekly routine.