In praise of small-town 24-hour supermarkets

Foodland Open 24 Hours

People, this is the sign you want to see when it’s after 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and you realize that you’re more than a pound short of the scallops you need for your late-night dinner recipe!

Just under three years ago, when Raymond and I bought the Manse and started coming to Queensborough on the weekends when we could get away from Montreal, we found it kind of amusing that the local supermarket, the Foodland in nearby Madoc, was open 24 hours a day. “Who in little wee Madoc needs to shop for groceries at 3 in the morning?” we asked. And, less amusedly: “How on earth can they afford to stay open around the clock?”

Then we more or less stopped thinking about it, and just shopped there, appreciating this small-town supermarket’s good selection (including, as I wrote here, an impressive display of vinegars!) and friendly service.

And as of one recent Saturday night, we’re really not laughing any more about the 24-hour thing – though I do still wonder how the Foodland manages to cover the cost of staff, heat, etc. for what can’t be a lot of grocery sales from late at night through to early morning,

Let me tell you, Raymond and I were some grateful on that aforementioned winter evening, sometime after 9 p.m., that the Foodland was open and only a 10-minute drive away. He was trying out a recipe we’d found at the wondrous New York Times Cooking: Ina Garten‘s luscious Coquilles St.-Jacques (read about it here; recipe here). All was going splendidly for a wonderful late-night dinner, until Raymond suddenly realized that he had way fewer scallops on hand than he’d thought. Yikes! Well, there was nothing for it but for me to dash into town, where the open-24-hours Foodland saved the day (actually, night) by having lots of bags of frozen scallops on hand.

It was a cold, quiet night; I met all of four cars on the road between Queensborough and Madoc, and a grand total of one on the way back home. Not a lot of people out and about after 9 p.m. in deepest midwinter in these parts. At the Foodland, my car was one of two in the lot:

Madoc Foodland, open late at night

That’s me, parked right by the front door of the welcomingly open Foodland, late on a wintry Saturday night.

Inside, I was one of maybe four shoppers roaming the aisles at that late hour. And you know what was the best part? (Aside, that is, from the Foodland having scallops.) It was the song playing on the radio over the loudspeaker system: “Well I was born in a small town/And I live in a small town/Probably die in a small town/Oh, those small communities … Got nothing against a big town … But my bed is in a small town/Oh, and that’s good enough for me.”

So on that note, and with another word of thanks and praise for a small town and its never-closed supermarket, take it away, Mr. Mellencamp:

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