Grocery Shopping is my staple happy space. It was distressing when I didn’t find happy in the space people do grocery shopping nearby. It’s not possible to pinpoint all the reasons why, but the grocery stores here are different enough in price, people, & etiquette that I would describe my early shopping as uncomfortable and unpleasant.
That is until I stepped inside The Boys.
If you notice the middle part of the sign – it says “Fresh Squeezed OJ Daily”. One day I couldn’t resist driving by without getting some. I pulled in the parking lot excited about Florida fresh squeezed citrus. They have OJ a plenty and better yet – grapefruit! But the juice was only the beginning of fresh squeezed happiness I found there.
Every visitor we’ve had gets to go on a field trip to The Boys. Not everyone appreciates it like I do but I guarantee a unique experience. I’ll give you, my reader, a virtual field trip.
The Boys is a permanent indoor farmers market that opened in 1988 by a family from NYC. The first part of the experience is getting into the lot and finding a place to park, without starting a scuffle or getting hit by a car. As you enter from the road, there is a curb on your right with signs every 5 feet stating “NO PARKING ANY TIME” . The whole curb is lined with cars. All the time. When you turn left into the lot, you have to use mad driving skills. This lot is filled with impatient people, shouldn’t-have-a-license drivers, and mini carts scattered haphazardly. I’ve learned the wisdom of heading for the North lot where its safer.
When you get near the door there is a table of $1.00 bags of fruits/veggies. What is available changes daily so I always make a quick stop. I’m certain most people have heard of “shopping the perimeter” to make the healthiest choices as most boxed, bagged, canned, and processed foods occupy the isles. The Boy’s is counter-cultural as the center of the store – every isle – is stacked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Last week I believe there were twenty plus varieties of apples; there are six or seven types of eggplant; mounds of tomatoes of every size and shape; piles of melons and a lady who cuts fresh slices off one for you to try. There is fruit that looks like sea urchins, vegetables that appear alien, all of it delights every fiber of my being.
When you enter the store and turn right you walk through the bakery. The cheese lady stands above her case of specialty cheese and will slice you up a sample. When you turn left there are mountains of berries and cut up fruit station. Next comes the coffee bean bar with the NJ coffee lady who begins with her brusque “what can I get you” and ends up sharing personal stories with me along with her coffee recommendation. The back wall of the store has the $4.99 wine section next to the fresh OJ and grapefruit case and the beautiful meat counter. There are 2 long hot bars with “prepared food” which must be a NY thing. I see people stock up on containers of all types of main dish goodies from there. Turn the corner again and the wall of seafood goes 1/2 way to the front of the store. The other 1/2 is everything green and leafy. The last side of the store has side by side check out isles and behind those, against the wall, are shelves of seasonings, sauces, & specialty soda.
We arrived in So. FL during the unofficial beginning of Season. (Season is when the snowbirds from way up North come way down South). When Season is in full swing (January through Easter), the population doubles. By the time I hit The Boys for the first time, it was November and plenty busy. Taking a cart, though they are very small, proved to be impossible. Waiting for my turn to move down the aisle – ridiculous. I learned to take one basket on my arm that I could lift over my head as I twisted through the pushy cart pushers. I smile and enjoy choosing each item that goes into my basket. I am polite, but there is no room for long conversation. Shoppers at The Boys are not conversation kind of people.
Several months into my trips to The Boys I came on a rainy day. There was space in the parking lot, space in the aisles. I returned my basket and grabbed a cart. I said hi to Sal, one of the friendly store managers. We shared a laugh as I told him about watching the man who got caught stealing a cart of groceries, quite the caper. Sal shared it’s not uncommon for people to come in with their own plastic bags, fill them up (with the basics like shrimp, smoked fish, expensive cheese), and head out the door as if they paid. After being in South Florida for nearly a year, that type of event surprises but doesn’t shock me anymore. I mentioned to him that I was able to use a cart, a rare treat between November and May. Sal explained the mystery and let me in on a helpful secret: “It’s a rainy day. You will always be able to use a cart on a rainy day, and before 8:00 am or after 5 pm.”
Thanks Sal, I love your fresh squeezed OJ and grapefruit juice, your produce, fresh local extra-large eggs, the cheese lady and .99 cent cavatapi. I’ve found my happy space again, during busy season, during the summer and even on a rainy day.