Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rating the Area Grocery Stores

I was just reading one of the blogs I read regularly (Village Green/Town Squared) and it got me thinking about all of the grocery stores at our fingertips in our richly blessed County of Howard, and I'm amazed by all of the choices.  But which is the best?  Which is the worst?  Which one should you shop at?  The closest?  Not necessarily.  Here, then, is a comprehensive list of stores I shop at semi-regularly along with why or why not you should consider them:

  • Weis (Gorman Rd., Laurel) - I hadn't even heard of this chain before moving into my current home in 2001.  Weis was the closest grocery store, so my wife and I began doing our shopping here.  We had been shopping regularly at Giant before, but the closest one was in Burtonsville.  Weis is good, with decent prices.  Their produce isn't the best.  The store isn't as large as the bigger chains, and so there isn't as much variety.  For example, I like to buy low-fat hot dogs, but Weis doesn't have very many to choose from.  Many times, I have to go without a particular item because Weis just won't carry it.  Sparkling Ice is another item I like, and there are very few choices of flavors.  They have about 5 or 6, and not the ones I like, though they seem to rotate the flavors occasionally.  Weis is a smaller chain, with stores in Central Maryland and South-Central Pennsylvania, mostly.  Overall, I give it a C+.
  • Harris-Teeter (Fulton/Maple Lawn) - I like Harris-Teeter, and was pleased when they opened this store in an area we frequent.  I believe the expectation is that the store will meet the needs of the completed Maple Lawn development, but until that happens, I find it amazing how empty the store seems every time I shop there.  Their prices aren't great.  Weis is better.  Their produce is better, though.  The store is much larger, and has a nice selection of everything that I tend to shop for.  It has a great deli, too.  I find their queues rather confusing.  You enter on the wrong side, then change sides after dropping your basket off beside the register for the Checker to empty and reload with bagged items.  I give Harris-Teeter an A-.
  • Giant (Burtonsville) - My wife and I used to live in Burtonsville, and we shopped regularly at the Giant there.  They have since closed and moved across the street into a new shopping center and much larger building.  Giant has always seemed like the most expensive grocery store, whether deserved or not.  I never shopped there growing up.  We had a Safeway down the street, so that was our go-to store.  Giant does seem to have the best selection of products, with the most variety.  They also have the best produce (and I'm not saying that just because my cousin works in the produce department at this Giant.... "Hey, Chris!").  They have a great deli, too.  Their higher prices means Giant gets a solid B+.
  • Food Lion (Fulton/Scaggsville) - I'm sure this Food Lion was built before they ever imagined a Harris-Teeter would move in less than a mile down the street, which would explain why it is so small.  I've only shopped here a couple of times, and I haven't been in the store in over 5 years.  At that time, it was called Bloom, part of Food Lion's attempt to gussy up the place (Bloom apparently was designed to cater to a more "upscale" clientele, versus the lower-income Bottom Dollar stores, like the one in Laurel.  The brand didn't last, though, and the name reverted back to Food Lion a few years ago.).  Frankly, with the Harris-Teeter so close, I'm surprised the Food Lion is still open.  I'll give it a C, but only because I haven't gone into the store in so long.
  • Wegman's (Columbia) - It's just a touch further away, but I definitely like Wegman's.  It is by far the largest chain, and has the best selection of items, though I'm not as impressed with the produce as I am with Giant's.  My only complaint is that I have such a hard time finding anything.  It's almost too big.  But I love the fact that my daughter and I can go there and have a sit-down dinner before gathering our groceries.  Prices don't seem to be great, but their not bad.  Wegman's gets an A.
  • Wal-Mart (Columbia) - I have such a hard time going into this store.  This is just my impression, but it appears to always be in disarray, and the employees do not seem to care very much about the customers.  This is a problem throughout the area, though.  Every Wal-Mart I've been in has this problem.  The store feels very crowded, too, and claustrophobic for some reason.  Interestingly, it only seems like the stores in this region are like this.  When I go to Oklahoma City, I don't feel the same way.  The store out there seems cleaner, less crowded, and nicer.  I just don't care to be in it.  My only reason to ever go there is if it is convenient and I don't want to go into Target.  I buy very few groceries here, if any.  Avoid it, if you can.  Just my 2 cents.  D.
  • Trader Joe's (Elkridge/Columbia) - I like Trader Joe's, but there really are a specialty store.  I just don't shop there much, and only if I absolutely need something right then.  I don't buy a huge amount here, but they do have high quality goods.  The store is much too small to have any variety, and it doesn't have much in the way of variety.  Decent store for what it is.  B-.
  • Target (Columbia) - While I believe Target is a huge step up from the Wal-Mart, I still feel like they don't care much about customer service.  Their prices on groceries are good, but they don't offer much in the way of selection or variety, and forget about produce.  I only buy food items if I'm already there and I don't want to go out to anywhere else.  While Target on the whole is okay, the grocery side is even better, overall.  C+.
  • Big Lots (Columbia) - Yes, they do have food stuff here.  Not much, and certainly no variety, but there are a few noteworthy items.  They had some fantastic hot sauce, but that now seems to have disappeared going on about a year now.  I am not comfortable buying any food items, though.  It just doesn't seem like a very well run store. D-.
  • Safeway/Shoppers/Other - I don't shop at any of these stores.  As I mentioned, Safeway was big when I was growing up, but there just aren't any very close.  Shoppers, too, isn't in my immediate area.
That's it for the stores where I shop.  I'm sure there are others worth checking out.  Hope you enjoy your shopping  trips.

Have a great evening, everyone!

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