Here’s what happens when a neighborhood grocery – in this case, Saar’s Marketplace – closes.
The bologna goes first.
That would be the mild East European variety, a delicatessen specialty not universally available, but a mainstay at Saar’s Marketplace on Pearl Street in Tacoma’s Westgate neighborhood.
That’s the Saar’s Marketplace that’s soon to close, to be replaced by Tacoma’s first McLendon Hardware branch.
“The German bologna, that was gone right away. And the sausages,” said shopper Fran Sparks of Tacoma, a loyal and longtime Saar’s customer. She was at the store on Monday, looking for some of the last bargains to grace the emptying shelves.
“They opened here after Ernst left, and now it’s going to be another hardware store,” Sparks said.
Saar’s expanded to open an outlet on Pearl Street after Ernst, locally owned, had failed to prosper.
Sparks shops at Saar’s two or three times a week, she said.
When she heard the news that the store would close, she said a word to herself that does not fit in a family newspaper.
“I’m thinking about the other customers, especially the ones that live around here,” she said.
She’s also thinking about that bologna, which reminds her of earlier days in her native Newfoundland.
“When we put in a store we run the demographics of the folks who live around that store, and we have found that when we merchandise to those folks, we tend to do better in those stores,” said John Hames, general manager of the Washington-based chain.
Some Saar’s stores focus on Asian foods, others on Hispanic foods. The Pearl Street store offered a wide selection of Eastern European groceries, as well as Asian.
Pickled plums, cooked salted duck eggs, yam cake.
Rice-stuffed zucchini, baba ghanouj, tinned cod livers, bullheads in tomato sauce, fava beans in rice, mulberry syrup, powdered sumac and a beverage called kvass.
“My wife and I shop at our stores,” said Hames. “We’ve always had ketchup in the refrigerator, now we have Mae Ploy. That’s in our refrigerator all the time now.”
It’s a sweet chili sauce, on sale, while it lasts, at 40 percent off at the Pearl Street store. Pretty much everything is 40 percent off, if there’s anything left.
On Monday, there was only one container of nazook left.
It’s an Armenian pastry.
“This place is special,” said Lillian Lupo, 87, twice a World War II widow.
Lupo came originally from Hawaii and now lives in Tacoma. She was at Saar’s on Monday to pick up some wasasbi shrimp chips and hummus.
“They call this the Russian store,” she said.
On shelves heavily drained by empty shadows, a few remaining varieties of canned goods bore Cyrillic writing and graphic depictions of foodstuffs unfamiliar to Western eyes or palates.
“I hate to see it close,” said shopper Nancy Larson of Tacoma. “I’ve been shopping here since it opened. The prices are right, The people are friendly. They have everything I need.”
On Monday, she was stocking up on frozen pizza and wine. “My parents are sad the store is closing, It was the most convenient place to go,” said Ivan Golub, a native of Ukraine and an employee at Friendly Foods, a European specialty market on Center Street.
It’s known for its fresh piroshky.
“There were Ukrainians, Germans and Belarusians at Saar’s,” he said.
“It was a gathering place,” said Hames, the general manager at Saar’s. “I think that just evolved with folks coming in and shopping. There was a lot of non-English spoken.”
The chain retains nine branches, including Parkland, Lakewood and South Tacoma.
And when the Tacoma store opens sometime this summer, Renton-based McLendon Hardware will count seven outlets, with two – Sumner and Puyallup – located in Pierce County.
Look for a full range of hardware and garden products.
But don’t expect to find any bologna.C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535 email@example.com