The pain of parting with ‘The Pig’
The sign outside drew me in.
The scene inside drove me out.
In big letters in front of the Seaside Farms Piggly Wiggly:
Inventory Reduction Sale
While Supplies Last
But for this longtime Pig customer, Wednesday morning’s foray into that store will be my last. That’s because along with those close-out price slashes came the cutting pain of emptying shelves — and an empty feeling.
The produce department was virtually wiped out. The deli was vacant. The end of that familiar outpost of “The Pig” was clearly near.
The specter of my favorite grocery store in terminal condition was depressing enough.
Then a worker at that Pig — he’s become kind of a pal over the many years our paths have crossed there — told me that the store will close on Oct. 16 and reopen five to seven days later as a Harris Teeter.
OK, we Pig fans have known for four weeks that the Charleston-based Piggly Wiggly Co. Inc. was selling 29 stores in South Carolina and Georgia — including almost all of them in these parts.
We also know that the folks who run for-profit enterprises must at times act as business death panels of sorts. And we know that some folks are at best perplexed, at worst irritated, by our nostalgic dismay over our Pigs’ demises.
For instance, a recent letter to the editor writer who admitted to being from “off” wrote of The Pig: “To me, it’s just another supermarket.”
Yet to many of us from here, it’s much more.
My Pig isn’t just near my Mount Pleasant home.
Shopping at my Pig makes me feel at home.
The end of a business hasn’t traumatized me this much since the Magnolia Drive-In showed its last movie more than three decades ago.
And since then, two newspapers where I once worked folded less than 20 months after this rat jumped off those sinking ships.
Lost in strange aisles
So while millions of Americans fret about the shutdown of our federal government, thousands of longtime Charleston area residents — including this one — are mourning over the shutdown of so many local Pigs.
Sweet “inventory reduction” deals can’t alter that sour feeling. Nor can they alleviate our angst about where we’ll now find what.
Last weekend, this Pig regular suffered considerable confusion on scouting trips for a new first-team grocery store near my home.
Where are the rice cakes?
Where is the Blenheim Ginger Ale, brewed with a jolting kick in our Palmetto State?
Mainly, though, where are the Pig staffers who’ve made that Seaside Farms store such a pleasant destination since it opened in 1996?
Harris Teeter and Bi-Lo officials have said Pig workers at the stores they’re buying can have jobs with them — though some will have to move to other outlets.
But some Seaside Farms workers have told me they will be classified as “new employees” by Harris Teeter — and thus lose some vacation time that comes with years of service.
At least the Meeting Street Pig will remain open until Nov. 2 before converting to a Bi-Lo.
At least Mrs. Mac’s Fried Chicken, which got a tasty tribute from fellow columnist Brian Hicks in the Sept. 27 Post and Courier, might live on at that Meeting Street store when it becomes a Bi-Lo. “Mrs. Venetta” Seels of that Pig gave me this update on that culinary treat Wednesday: “The question’s still lingering.”
At least some Meeting Street Pig staffers told me they will still be working there when it switches to Bi-Lo.
A bitter flavor
However, a stinging sense of loss will still work disorienting distress on many of us who grew up, and old, with The Pig.
Sure, “The chief business of the American people is business” (President Calvin Coolidge), “Business is the salt of life” (Voltaire), and “We have to do what’s best for business” (World Wrestling Entertainment chief operating officer Hunter Hearst Helmsley, aka “Triple H,” aka “The Game”).
But finding a new grocery store will be a sad business for us Pig perennials.
Back to my last roundup at that once-thriving Seaside Farms Pig now on its last legs.
I offered this farewell to one of its workers Wednesday morning: “Good luck to you.”
His reply: “Yeah — we’ll need it.”
And so will those of us who have long been sticking with The Pig.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.