The greatest grocery store in America opened a store a few blocks from our office yesterday.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this, because well, San Antonio didn’t have a grocery store downtown. With the opening of South Flores Market and its proximity to our office, we now have all kinds of food within walking distance!
This is a BIG DEAL for all of us, so it was a special day.
At work, we put time on our calendar to walk to the store as a group, and by coincidence we arrived just as a brief ceremony was to begin. A crowd had gathered to hear H-E-B leadership, San Antonio’s city manager, and our mayor, Ivy Taylor, talk about the importance of the market to San Antonio’s downtown core.
Some nerd somewhere operated a drone that swooped slowly over the crowd, I’m sure to gather footage for some video or press release down the line. I stood in the crowd as if I was worried I would somehow be “found out”.
All the important people spoke, including the director of the store. He thanked San Antonio, he thanked his managers, and then his kids helped him cut the ribbon to end the ceremony. All was well at the South Flores Market.
Then the race to get into the store began.
It wasn’t truly a race to be first, as the store had officially been open since 7 am, but it was a rush to get into the store before the rest of the crowd. I employed my crowd busting skills, acquired over many years of navigating the streets of Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I ducked, I dodged, I stepped around, and through.
I made it quickly. I made it a little TOO quickly.
As I entered the store, I looked back to see if my coworkers had made it with me. When I did, I noticed that I was right in front of our mayor. I glanced at her, then quickly looked forward.
Should I say something? What do people say to mayors? What do people say to mayors at the grand opening of a grocery store?
I hesitated. I decided to act like a normal human being and just go into the store. I looked back one more time to check on my coworkers. I found them! I started to step out of the way to wait for them to catch up, and as I did the mayor stepped forward and I decided to go for it.
“Mayor Taylor,” hand extended, “Thank you for your leadership”.
There. That seemed decent enough. It’s apolitical, and it’s not the kind of small talk that requires a huge response. It’s just a way of saying, “Hey, thanks for the work you do for our city”.
She smiled and enthusiastically replied, “Oh your welcome!”
At around this point, I had figured she would have moved past me. Instead, she stopped. That’s the polite thing to do, of course, but for some reason I thought she would have slipped past me on her way to chat with the power players in the store or to do some shopping. After all, even mayors need to buy eggs!
I stood awkwardly in front of the mayor for a brief moment not knowing what to say, or even how to act. I didn’t have a secondary conversation in mind. I was unprepared!
I smiled (I think), and then I performed the greatest magic trick I know. I nodded as if to say “that’s all, just wanted to say hi” and then disappeared into the crowd.
The store was amazing. It was everything I hoped it would be.
A few of us wandered the store for a bit. Some bought food for lunch and others talked of all the things they would be buying in subsequent visits. Soup preferences were discussed, baguettes were drooled over, fruit tarts were eyed, and the toiletry aisle was never found. (They have one; we somehow missed it)
This is a game changer for people who live and work downtown.
Though we arrived as a group, our little band of grocery store trekkers’ resolve to stick together came apart upon entering the store. We left individually, I assume, once we had seen what we came to see and purchased what we needed to purchase.
Once I got a feel for the place, I decided to walk back to the office. I kept thinking about how great it will be to be able to walk to South Flores Market for lunch, or for whatever random things I need for home. I thought about how lots of other downtown folks, my coworkers and friends among them, would be doing the same thing.
I also thought about how the mayor might shop there from time to time and right then and there, I resolved that next time I wouldn’t try any impromptu conversational heroics. Next time, I’ll play it cool and just let her buy her eggs.