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Vestal: Be sure to keep cool when the cool new place opens

Wed., Dec. 1, 2010

I had the good fortune to be in the heart of Bronco Nation – that’s Southern Idaho to those of you not all tangled up in blue – when Boise State managed to lose its first game in 25 tries on Friday.

I’m not much of a football fan, but I always love to see a hype bubble burst. In the living room where I was watching the game sputter to an inglorious end, it was like someone had died. People discreetly dabbed at their eyes with their blue-and-orange T-shirts. Phone calls and text messages of condolence flew through the freezing Idaho air.

I wanted to celebrate, just a little, but it didn’t seem like the familial thing to do.

In the silence, one of my nephews said in an astonished, woeful voice, “I’m sad.”

Then his brother piped up. “I’m not that sad,” he said.

He’s a funny kid, that nephew. And smart – though in fairness, I suppose we all find ourselves swung emotionally to and fro by things that hold no sway over others.

Like, oh, I don’t know, the arrival of a certain grocery store in Spokane. The fanfare surrounding the announcement that the store whose name I don’t need to mention is coming – the yearning that it would bless us with its presence, the petitions to company masters, the thrilling stories of spectacular treasures found at the store in the Emerald City, the Hawaiian shirts, the respectable $2 wine – created feverish ecstasy in some quarters.

But you know what? I’m not that happy.

I mean, I’m happy. It’s a good thing, I suppose, all in all. For all the insistence that we in the pro-Spokane camp emit about liking the city just the way it is, we’re short on the kinds of grocery stores that have to put out alerts like the one currently on this store’s website: “A note to our customers about the cilantro-related recall.”

Time was, cilantro-related recalls didn’t affect us all that much.

So, yeah, it’s cool and all. Really super. We’ll be able to call our friends in Seattle and commiserate.

And we’re pretty cool, too, those of us who like this kind of thing. Aren’t we? We who check out the quinoa and spurn the sea bass and carry the hippest cloth bags in which to haul home the locally sourced bacon and post our meal plans on Facebook so our friends can exclaim over their goodness.

What nags me is this: When we’re exclaiming over the goodness of our food, it sometimes seems like “good” doesn’t mean delicious. It means proper. It means righteous. It means all our consumer gluttony – which we so disdain in other contexts – is sanctified by our excellent taste.

So I’m feeling kind of OK. Happy, all right? Just not that happy.

More than 12,000 people have “liked” a Facebook page created to promote the idea of bringing this grocery store to Spokane. The page, as you might imagine, is over the moon over the news that the store is coming to town. A recent post thanks the company for “believing in our great city and area.”

Yes. Thanks for the belief, store.

It’s a good time for the gustatory pleasures here in Spokane. The amount of great pizza has increased by 84 percent, give or take. You can get a fancy pie with an egg on it at one notable new spot. New offerings, fancy and plain, are springing up throughout the city. Frankly, the thing that has me the happiest, foodwise, is the new chain hamburger joint, where I want to eat three times a day.

There are at least a couple of local stores swimming in the same organic, foodie-friendly waters that this new grocery store will when it opens next year. One in particular has toiled to sell organic and foodie kinds of things for years, and a new spot downtown is trying to achieve liftoff. A common complaint regarding both is the high prices – and a common bit of praise for the new spot is how reasonably priced its fancy food is.

Yeah. The big chains usually are cheaper than the local places.

And that’s good for us all, right? Like when Walmart sells us underwear – or no, not Walmart, of course not them, let’s say: when Target sells us our favorite brand of underwear way cheaper than Bob’s Underwear Mart does? That’s great, right? Good for everyone? Except Bob?

I do not hate this place, though like all things that inspire great love, this one inspires great hate as well. But there is plenty to admire about it, including the way it pays its workers.

All I’m saying is this: Let’s not lose our heads. When the new place arrives, it’ll be cool. It’ll be really nice. I’ll be there myself, I’m sure, walking the aisles with my cloth bags and my righteous $2 wine.

And I’ll be happy. Pretty happy. Sort of happy.

Roughly as happy as I am now, give or take.

Because I’ll already be thinking of the next thing we lack. The thing we need. The thing that other cities – real cities – have. The coolest store, the place where what we buy and what we eat – and how we talk to each other about what we buy and what we eat – will finally do that thing we always thought it would do for us.

I’m starting a Facebook page. I’m writing a letter. I’m drafting a petition.

Here we are, Whole Foods. Come and get us.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or

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