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In all of my time living downtown here in Des Moines, I have wanted a grocery store that I could call my own. A store that would take about 5 minutes to ride a bike to, some place that sold all of the little things you need to get a grocery store, save for cat supplies which I buy at my local bulk membership box of fun. I live close to two Asian Markets, and down the street from La Tapatia, a large Mexican Market, and across the river two miles there is Gateway Market, and Price Chopper lives on Ingersoll Ave. There are options, but none that really fit the bill completely. Last year locally based Hy Vee and some developers sold us downtown residents on the promise of a full on grocery store at the venerable 4th & Court intersection. They would be building atop what was a main parking lot for the eating/entertainment district, but the structure would include a parking garage that would replace those parking spots. I was initially very against this idea, mainly due to my inability to accept change, but also the fact that this whole deal seemed a little off. Take all the parking, one of the last great commodities, add a full grocery store. I don’t know.
What we actually got from Hy Vee was a full on food court, complete with taco shop, sushi shop, bagel shop, Italian Street food shop, Asian Foods Shop, gourmet cupcake shop, a fucking New York Deli (which I hear is the best of these places), a Salad Bar, a full bar, a Market Grille, a Fresh Pasta stand, a liquor store with 40 different varieties of Vodka alone, a Growler fill station, and somewhere hidden along the periphery of all of this prepared food and booze madness, there are some groceries.
Hy Vee did a good old fashioned bait and switch on us downtown folk, promising a grocery store and instead making, what I overheard one of their employees saying, the prototype for future stores for small towns/city centers. Sounds like a great plan. Local Grocery Chain eyes the jugulars of surrounding local restaurants and bars with a serrated sandwich knife in one hand and the key to the city in the other. Hy Vee got a 20 year tax abatement from the City of Des Moines, and the City also did not require them to build the extra parking spaces which were originally called for. Hy Vee put in food concepts that seem to be strategic direct competition to the restaurants on the surrounding blocks, like they took inventory of what the neighborhood had to offer, then pretty much made their own version. I suppose it can be hard being a grocery store with a big dream of becoming a restaurant. I mean, it’s fucking mad genius on their part, they don’t have to worry about distributors jacking up prices, they just buy from themselves. They have had prepared foods for decades, and recently added their “Market Grille” concept to their existing stores, blah blah blah. Whatever. The grocery selection is just ok.
I’ve shopped there three times, by bike, to check the place out, and was only left hanging on a few items. Their Vegan selections are decent, and the produce section is probably the standout section of the store. It takes about 4 minutes to get there from my house by bicycle. It’s convenient and close. The bike parking is lackluster, but it works. I’m not happy with how the businesses of the area have been treated by the Hy Vee corporation, but it’s kind of a grocery store and frankly I’m tired of writing about the goddamn thing.
Rep Local. Shop Wherever.