Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Madison Market

Since we're talking about "sustainability," cooperatives, and consumption, I thought it was about time that I mentioned the Madison Market. I've only been shopping here for a little more than a year, since I moved to the neighborhood, but I sometimes wonder how I mananged without it. They specialize in local and organic food and garner my respect by combining social action into their business plan. The inspiration for this post was a sign I saw last night on the Odwalla cooler which notified customers that they no longer carry Coca Cola products (Odwalla or Glaceau Vitamin Water, etc; they never had cans of diet coke or anything) because their philosophies don't jibe. Instead, they will be carrying Columbia Gorge fruit juices, beginning in early June.

I know, it's not in the most attractive of buildings, but this time I'm not talking about the building.

In a quasi-phenomenology of the store, I'll start with the layout. It's small, probably about 20% the size of a Safeway or QFC. As you enter, there is a help desk, where you can learn more about the organization, which is typically flanked by some fresh fruit. Flowers and reusable shopping bags (I would say that 75% of customers use a form of reusable bag; the ongoing member election just proposed to start charging 10 cents per disposable bag, a la San Francisco and much of Europe, and hopefully Seattle in the near future) are for sale across from the desk. As you continue to walk, you approach the coffee/juice bar, which is foregrounded by tables that are typically occupied, and sits adjacent to the deli. A cooler also greets you with its many quick meals ranging from sushi rolls to chicken salad to hard-boiled eggs. Fresh bread, soup, a selection of cheeses comes up on your left as the checkout stands appear on the right.

As you enter the main shelving area, you might be surprised at the brands you see: Eden Organic (dried fruit), Peace Cereal, Cascade Fresh (yogurt), Hansen's (soda), R.W. Knudsen (juice), Ballard Organics (soap) and Lilly's hummus. You might also be surprised at the "origin" tag on much of the fresh produce; I know I was. The selection of frozen food is minimal and brands like Amy's, Cedar Lane, and Ethnic Gourmet are prominent. The beer section is small too but contains Deschutes, New Belgium (from Colorado, I know, but the brewery runs on wind power). There is a butcher with a selection of fresh meat and seafood, a wide selection of eggs (duck eggs?), and an extensive bulk foods section (bring your own container and weigh it at the check stands as you walk in; I'm still trying to remember to do this). A fresh peanut butter machine and coffee grinder (for all the fair-trade coffees) are available too.

Yes, it is a little more expensive to shops here than at Safeway but, I think, it is well worth it. I feel the focus is on quality rather than quantity. The size of the store and the small shopping carts make it feel more like a market (hence the name) than a wholesale warehouse. The ceiling is lower, the colors are earthy and the music is good. The magazines for sale at the checkout are Dwell, The New Yorker, Harper's, Adbusters, Bitch. Come on over, it's at 16th/Pine/Madison on Capitol Hill.

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