While the village and its surroundings are trying to make sense of the news that Nojaim’s is closing and being replaced by a convenience store and gas station, let me share this with you.
I am 83 years old. Whatever happens because of Nojaim’s closing will have limited effect on whatever time I have on this earth. I will, very sadly, adjust, sad at the loss of an institution that has so positively affected the life of the village and those who come to shop there from as far away as Lafayette of the east side of Skaneateles Lake.
It will be up to those who are younger to work through the options and create the resources in which the village can take pride. This is an opportunity not to be shirked. If I were twenty years younger…heck even ten years…but..
I love Nojaim’s. There isn’t a week that we don’t spend money there. We may go in for eggs, particularly the jumbo eggs but leave with much more. We see something we forgot we needed, might need or is on sale. We are there, at the very least, three or four times every week. “Is there anything you need at Nojaim’s?” is the frequent query by my spouse on his way back from his office in Syracuse. Most of the time, my answer is “yes.”
I buy all of our meat from Nojaim’s. Besides that, I love a particular brand of ginger snaps that Nojaim’s carries. And I realize that, like the ginger snaps, waste basket liners are not a world-shaking need, but there is a brand of liner that I really appreciate and can only get at Nojaim’s. I also always buy one of their unbelievably tasty in-store made chicken pot pies or several of their store-made banana breads. I have friends who come in from Fayetteville and Syracuse to get one of the chicken pot pies. They are that good.
There’s also the fact that you never know what special cheese is found on the shelves above the pizza dough and they have an incredible ham salad that is Rev. Muscolino’s favorite (mine too.)
You know, for a store of its size, it is surprising how it is able to offer such a wide variety of services. Most of us know of the great lunch meals that they produce, everything from fried chicken to beef stroganoff. The beer cooler is impressive as is the dairy aisle. My spouse is enamored with the fried fish on Fridays.
Are the prices a bit higher? Sure. It is a small village grocery not able to compete with the buying power of the big box stores. You do have to drive to those stores using high priced gasoline. All in all the difference is acceptable. Do I shop elsewhere? Yes. My storeroom is full of large cases of paper products and toothpaste purchased at one of the big box outlets where I am just the holder of a wallet or credit card.
More important, though, is the “village-ness” of Nojaim’s and that feeling that it belongs to me because I belong as a customer.
I love being recognized by the cashiers. “Hi, Ann. How ’ya doing?” from Anna; a courteous smile from Pat and a short update on Josh’s kids from Josh in in the meat department or his mom in the deli. I like seeing the owner, Rich, is his white coat, fresh from assisting the butcher or stocking shelves, and his welcoming smile, his “Hi, how are you?”
I enjoy watching the high school students who work at the cash registers. How many young people got their first job at Nojaim’s? It reminds me of my first job at the IGA in a similar small town. And it is a rare day when I don’t meet someone at Nojaim’s with whom I enjoy chatting, anyone from a former student to a colleague, a friend from church or the library, etc. And we do chat, apologizing to those who need to get by us as we talk. It is a community meeting place. Ask the men who gather there on Sunday mornings for the free coffee and donuts.
Forgive me if I see the store in a poetic light. I think of the store as a form of art, one created by Rich Nojaim over the years with hard work, good people and community consciousness. It is an art form we all understand as a projection of our daily lives in its reality of addressing the basic needs of those lives, from sustenance to belonging.
Is Nojaim’s perfect? Shiny, decorated with a sophisticated nod to the current styles and colors, promoted with an enormous publicity budget? Absolutely not and that imperfection is why I love it even more. It is imperfect, like us all.