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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

Breaking Up – With Your Grocery Store – Is Hard To Do

Bartlett Hartley & Mulkey architects

Some relationships just aren’t meant to last. When you have misunderstandings, get bored, or just don’t feel appreciated, it’s time to move on.

So when the Harris Teeter grocery store in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood closed for remodeling almost a year ago, I decided to make a clean break.

For a long time, I’d been frustrated with what I considered an uninspired and unbalanced grocery selection: an entire aisle of laundry detergent, but very little in the way of fresh breads. Displays of furniture and home decor, but only a few varieties of peppers. More frustrating, I’d had no success over the years getting the corporate office to understand that Chanukah sometimes begins in November, so the candles need to go on the shelf before Christmastime.

I vowed I would patronize other stores exclusively, and challenged myself to stay out of HT.

Admittedly, I picked the perfect time to make this pledge, because in the last few years EarthFare, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods have opened stores in the Charlotte area. There are two Food Lion stores not far from my house. Target and Walmart have grocery departments, and even drugstores sell canned goods, frozen foods, and a few fresh dairy products.

Best of all, this was a good excuse to explore the Latin and Asian markets – and farmer’s markets – in the area. Instead of rushing into my usual grocery store for a ready-made rotisserie chicken and devouring it almost before it hit the table, I started really paying attention to what I was seeing on store shelves and in bins. It took a little planning.

Credit riekhavoc (caught up?) on Flickr

I polled my friends, and they were pretty evenly divided between those who migrated to another branch of the same chain, and those eager to broaden their horizons. Sometimes my more intrepid pals would meet up and we’d carpool to Super G or Grand Asia. It was unnerving to realize how few of the beans, greens, and seeds we recognized.

So we experimented, with milk tea, Banh Khot pancakes, Korean barbecue sauce, a plethora of peppers. My friend Carol and I took a class to learn noodle-making. Not every dish was worth repeating, but it’s been anything but boring. And I’ve saved on my grocery bills, too, because the convenience of having a big, chain store nearby costs more.

Yes, I’ve drifted into Harris Teeter a few times in the last year, the way a person might meet up with an old flame for lunch, every now and then. So far, I haven’t felt pulled to come back and spend more time together.

Bartlett Hartley & Mulkey architects
The new Harris Teeter on Central Avenue will open at the end of May.

But that might be about to change – because the new-and-improved Harris Teeter is getting ready to open at the end of May. Two stories tall with a dynamic design, its makeover is almost complete.

But will it be enough to rekindle our relationship? It’s hard to say. Maybe we’ve both learned something during our time apart. After all those years we spent together, giving it another go might be worth a try.

Amy Rogers is the author of Hungry for Home: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas and Red Pepper Fudge and Blue Ribbon Biscuits. Her writing has also been featured in Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing, the Oxford American, and the Charlotte Observer. She is founding publisher of the award-winning Novello Festival Press. She received a Creative Artist Fellowship from the Arts and Science Council, and was the first person to receive the award for non-fiction writing. Her reporting has also won multiple awards from the N.C. Working Press Association. She has been Writer in Residence at the Wildacres Center, and a program presenter at dozens of events, festivals, arts centers, schools, and other venues. Amy Rogers considers herself “Southern by choice,” and is a food and culture commentator for NPR station WFAE.