Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Squash is a Berry; Shaw’s is No More

The phrase should perhaps be eat your fruits and fruits.

I had long known that tomatoes are a fruit, but somehow had never made the jump to winter squash. And not only is a squash a fruit; it is a berry. And it is not just a berry, but a pepo, a berry with a thick rind. Cucumbers, summer and winter squashes and melons are all pepos. Peppers, eggplants and bananas are just berries. 

Nor was I used to thinking of legumes (peanuts and beans) as fruits, but fruits they are. And most things we call “nuts” are actually fruits in the nut subcategory, but not almonds, which are drupes like cherries.

Do you have all this straight? It was a relief to learn that some “vegetables” are not fruits. But perhaps we should be calling them roots, shoots and leaves.

On the same day I was absorbing all this arcane knowledge, I also heard that my local supermarket, which I consider a great place to buy pepos and other fruits and vegetables, and where I discovered the parsnip, will be Shaw’s no more. Supervalu is divesting itself of all its Shaw’s stores in Connecticut. Most are being acquired by Stop & Shop, but no buyer has been found for the downtown New Haven store.

This is a blow to New Haven, particularly to the Dwight neighborhood, adjacent to Yale University. With its store on Whalley Avenue, Shaw’s is the only major chain with a presence anywhere near the downtown area. Many who live and work in the neighborhood do not have cars. It is about five miles away in any direction from Shaw’s to another store of similar size and quality.

It was quite an accomplishment when the Dwight Community Development Corporation succeeded in attracting Shaw’s to the neighborhood in 1998. Downtown New Haven had been without a major supermarket for years. Shaw’s became a place to shop, as well as a source of good neighborhood jobs.

I have chosen to shop at Shaw’s over its competitors. Its prices are fair. The store is clean and well-stocked. It is convenient. They have the best bananas around. Ask anyone. I am very sorry Supervalu has chosen to leave the state.

The developer of 360 State Street has promised to include a supermarket on the ground floor of the 500 unit apartment complex which is under construction in my ward. (There is a hefty penalty if he does not.) The footprint is not as large as Shaw’s, but the market will be close enough for me to walk there with a shopping cart. If an agreement can be reached, and the store is to my liking, I will have my grocery store.

But 360 State is a long walk from the site of Shaw’s, and a store at this location will not solve the problem for the people who live in the Dwight neighborhood, for the many residents who have jobs at Shaw’s, or for Yale students. Lower Whalley Avenue has already experienced the closing of Rite-Aid and Staples in the last few months, leaving empty retail space and parking lots and very few places to shop. For students without cars, The Yale Bookstore (Barnes & Noble) and Gourmet Heaven are the only convenient (albeit pricey) options.

Surely Shaw’s would not have remained in New Haven all these years without a reasonably good profit margin. I hope that one of the other chains can look beyond its usual suburban model to open a store in a city center. I am sure the City of New Haven and the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs are doing their best to find a buyer.

I hope they succeed. And, if they do, I promise I will give their pepos (and parsnips) a try.

1 comment:

  1. I too was stunned and am saddened by Shaws' departure. I serve at the Yale rep on the board of the Greater Dwight Development Corporation which manages the plaza, and I can tell you we are all focused on moving forward, and doing what we can to support the dwight neighborhood's effort to bring healthy, affordable food options back to that plaza.