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MossColumn: It's a long way to the cow

We had a girl in our house who drank milk.

She ran and ran and swam and swam and played trumpet and did homework. Then she drank milk. It was always skim milk. It was odd because we had a boy in our house that drank no milk. His mother thought it was because in the school lunchroom at Manning Elementary School in Roanoke Rapids someone accidentally gave him a carton of spoiled milk. Maybe so. We’ll never know. He was not lactose sensitive. In fact, when he was a growing boy, we could tell that his body craved calcium. He would get out the biggest bowl and pile it high with ice cream. In two nights he would finish off a carton of Breyer’s. The consumption seemed to come and go with the needs of his body urging “calcium calcium calcium.”
The girl was steady. She drank milk every day. When the jug was half full, we took the pessimist’s view: half empty. Our inner alarm went off. That won’t last the day.
One time a boyfriend’s mom picked up the girl for a lake trip.
“I hope you have a cow,” I said.
The girl scowled.
So when it came to this highly endangered food source, we just called it a cow. My routine driving home from Lightning Media Inc. world headquarters is to call Elizabeth and ask, “Do we need anything from the town?” I make it sound like this is the covered wagon days, like it might be weeks before we could climb aboard our dray and make the long trek back to town for provisions. And she would ask the same of me, when she was leaving one of her ten thousand meetings all over town solving the world’s problems.
When the girl was still in the house, the list was a given. “I think we need a cow,” I would say. We couldn’t overbuy milk. Even if we already had a gallon, we could buy another gallon knowing that the girl would finish the incumbent gallon and then make a major dent in the new gallon in two moons. In our household expiration dates were irrelevant.

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I only tell that story about a cow because I have been thinking about grocery stores and how come we have so many.
If we get a Publix, that would make 19 grocery stores. Ingles wants to replace the run-down Spartanburg Highway store with a new 72,000-square-foot building. It will still have eight stores in Henderson County — all but two of them of newer superstores. Although surveys do not show that we’re fatter than other counties in North Carolina we sure must have an appetite to shop at supermarkets, especially the upscale variety that requires a long hike to reach the nonfat cow.
I think Ben Pace is right.
When the Planning Board took up the request last week, Pace, a Planning Board member, said that if Ingles bulldozes the old Spartanburg Highway store, we’ll have few left that are walkable for the older shopper. Pace said he met a woman who lives halfway between Hendersonville and Brevard who likes to shop at the smaller Ingles. Maybe she enjoys the buggy slalom course around the buckets Ingles uses to catch the water from its leaking roof.
I think Ben Pace’s friend must be the only shopper that would miss the old Ingles. Clearly it needs to be repaired and updated. Ingles would rather start over.
Steve Johnson, the other Planning Board to vote no on the Ingles request, asked the supermarket’s development manager a question on the minds of many of us. Do you really need another store?
It’s all about selling new product lines that the 1980 edition cannot offer, he said — seafood, specialty butcher counter, Starbucks, beer cave, wine department and gasoline (yes, it would have a Gas Express).

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Even Gary Jones, the commercial real estate agent who is in a court battle with Ingles Markets and the city over the City Council’s decision to close a roadbed that runs through the property, made a point during the Planning Board hearing that he shops at Ingles.
I do, too. At the one in question, in fact.
I’m a disciplined grocery shopper. I get what’s on the list and I’m gone — although … have you noticed how, through the miracle of text messaging, a grocery list grows and grows even as you’re standing in the checkout line? It’s worse than running suicides.
Whether it builds across the street from both Ingles and Fresh Market and 200 yards from Harris Teeter or somewhere else, Publix won’t be able to pass up the Hendersonville-Flat Rock-Laurel Park market for long. No one else can resist apparently.
I know I need to walk more, and walk more I shall.
I’m just here to pick up a cow. But thanks to the marketing execs, I always get a grand cruise of the aisles — cereal, dog food, toilet tissue, canned soup and baked beans — before I reach the far corner where they keep the cow.

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Reach Hendersonville Lightning editor Bill Moss at