I am not liking the news I’m reading on Facebook and in the newspaper, and hoping it’s a bad dream. Please don’t tell me The Crown Market – our one and only old time family owned kosher grocery store – has decided to close the doors for good without reaching out to the community, without going with a fanfare; with the same gusto, love and attention to our community and the long relationships we have build over generations…
Please tell me that all that – all our history and the meaningfulness and importance of it – was not just an illusion? We all know it’s been difficult for the Crown these past few years, with the increasingly tough and heartless competition from corporate America creeping closer and closer for each year; I admit I personally loathe the chirpiness of those in our community who were excitedly running to the Wal-Mart “Neighborhood Market” (what a farce!) to buy “cheaper kosher cheese and meat” – yeah! to your blind support of corporate America at the cost of supporting our local treasures. Morons.
But dear Crown: don’t forget all the hundreds of families who have stubbornly stood by our favorite market, even if we knew it might mean we paid a few cents or dollars extra for this or for that. It was our pleasure. And we would continue to do it. Because you have been our hands down favorite grocer, and your professional, wonderful, caring, warm and endearing Market staff, from the bottom and all the way up the ladder, feels like an extended family, no wait a minute, part of MY REAL community. “How are the boys, Nina?” “How’s your dad, doing?” “When is your mom coming for a visit next?” My Norwegian parents loved to come along for a shop at the Crown, becasue this was what they knew the old time America was supposed to be like. Charming, friendly, service minded. Try taking them to Wal-Mart for that experience. Bevakasha – you’re welcome. Yuck.
It seems we all – the long time Crown employees, as well as all the Crown’s faithful customers – deserve to be able to say thank you and good bye to each other in a dignified and positive manner. Would it not be a great thing to be able to reminisce about a memorable and worthy closing event? Even though the recent heads up has felt shocking to most people who are not insiders at the Crown (unfortunately, I’ve heard that even for some employees, this is a surprise), if it’s not an outright surprise, it IS very, very sad. All day yesterday I felt as if I heard the news somebody I loved and cared for was dying. But for real. And what’s up with that? I drank wine again in the middle of week, even though I haven’t for a long time, in a concerted effort to lose weight and be healthier. But last night, I felt the unstoppable urge of a looming depression. Sadness and powerlessness over an impending cloud of inevitable loss.
The Crown leadership, and we, should seize AND create an opportunity for a community outpouring, and if there really is no way to SAVE THE CROWN (see Colin McEnroe’s clever idea here: How to Save the Crown) they all deserve a chance for kind farewells from all the people for whom the Crown has been a meeting point of our daily lives, shared stories, from the casual or hurried “how are yous,” to those sometimes unavoidable longer lingerings in the isles or over the meat counter, where one could hear, perhaps, the whispered secrets of a neighbor’s relationship advice, or reminders of the critical ingredient in that unforgettable chicken soup you had last month at the Feinbergs. And sometimes even of tears of joy or of sadness.
I try to imagine getting ready for Shabbat, this coming Shabbat, and the one after, and for the rest of my life in West Hartford, without a run to the Crown. It will be like re-training my muscle memory, much like it was so difficult to change my habits of thinking and planning and caring when my dogs died after 14 years of life together, or after I got divorced, after 22 years. I imagine empty nesters go through the same emotional re-training. New thinking patterns, new habits. It will take time to not have the Crown “right there” in the frontal lobe. I try to imagine not seeing the employees anymore that I enjoy running into and bantering with. I shiver at the idea of having to one day see the Crown store as an empty, cavernous space, as the inventory is plucked away and the eventual “refurbishing” begins…
In the meantime, I’m going to make every effort to do some squatting there in the days to come, so that I can say thank you for your service, for your smiles, for caring if my eggs are broken or if you have gotten the specific brand of sauce I requested. Thank you for being a store that reinforced my feeling of being Jewish, by being closed when all the other stores refuse to set boundaries between that which is sanctified and that which is not. 24-7, come on. Who needs it. I hope everyone will join me in the opportunity to gratefully and gracefully be part of, in a way, the closing of the Crown, so dignified as it is in its long and memorable existence in and service to our community. Here in MY Jewish American life.
Let’s create our own “sanctified space” in the next few precious days or weeks that the Crown’s doors remain open, to be thankful, show our appreciation in any way we can, and celebrate the future; because we must keep believing in good things and in a process of change, and in the eventual need of moving on when the time has come.