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Market’s proud it’s not ‘super’

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When I was a kid in the 1940s, my mother did all her grocery shopping at a mom 'n' pop store on the northwest corner of 5th South and 300 East called Boston Meat & Grocery.

It was only a quarter-block from our apartment, The Goldadine (on the current library site), and it was owned and operated by a man named Les. If there was a Mrs. Les, she always stayed at home, which, in true corner-grocery fashion, was attached to the back of the store.

Other than the occasional trip downtown, the Boston was pretty much my entire retail world back then, a time when you could actually buy something for a penny, and a nickel made you the richest kid on the block. I try explaining this to my kids today, but all that gets me is a lecture on the horrors of inflation. (And they absolutely, positively don't want to hear about me trudging to the Oquirrh School in snow up to my waist).

I'm ruminating about the good old days of the corner grocery because Orchard Street Market opened its sixth store this month, at 4695 S. Holladay Blvd. It now has three stores in Salt Lake County and three in Las Vegas.

If you haven't yet checked it out, Orchard Street is a Salt Lake-based un-supermarket chain, a throwback to a type of retailing that I thought was as dead as the Boston Meat & Grocery.

"The idea behind Orchard Street is to bring back the neighborhood grocer atmosphere that has somehow become lost over the years," managing director Ken Martindale explained. "We want Orchard Street to be a fun place for our customers to shop. And in the process of having fun, we will even offer customers a few tips on our produce."

That's because Orchard Street specializes in produce, the area — along with the meat counter — that my wife says makes Dan's a better grocery store than . . . well, those other stores. I emphasize that's her opinion, not mine, so send her the nasty e-mails instead of me.

True, you can make the case that 7-Eleven and the other convenience stores have taken the place of the corner grocery, but since you can't buy the makings for Sunday dinner at them, I'm taking the position that they don't count.

Besides, the c-stores sell gasoline, and in the '40s you bought your gas from a guy in a uniform who not only pumped it for you but washed your windshield and checked your oil. Suggest that to the guy behind the counter at 7-Eleven and you're likely to get a Slurpee in the kisser.

Maybe it's the dark side of Utah's entrepreneurial fervor, but the state's bankruptcy rate is still going in the wrong direction from the rest of the country.

According to figures released this month by the American Bankruptcy Institute, bankruptcy filings in the District of Utah totaled 3,707 in the second quarter, up 7.1 percent over the same period last year.

For the 12 months ended June 30, Utah filings totaled 14,399, a 2.9 percent rise over the same period a year ago.

By comparison, the ABI points out that overall bankruptcy filings nationally in the second quarter dropped to their lowest levels since 1996 while filings for the 12 months ended in June were down 8.3 percent nationwide.

Utah's 7.1 percent rise in the second quarter was the fourth highest of any district in the nation, according to ABI spokeswoman Pam Shepherd. Guam had the biggest increase, up a whopping 42.2 percent, followed by Delaware, up 23.8 percent, and the eastern Louisiana district, up 15.5 percent. The southern district of Alabama, up 5.5 percent, completed the dubious "top five" worst districts in the ABI rankings.

The largest second-quarter declines in bankruptcies were in California, where the northern district enjoyed a 27.5 percent decline, the southern district a 20.9 percent drop and the central district 19.7 percent fewer filings. Some districts in New York and Massachusetts also had big drops in filings.

The Utah trend toward higher bankruptcies vs. the rest of the country is not a new trend. Filings in the state were up 0.8 percent last year despite an 8.5 percent decrease nationally, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

E-MAIL: max@desnews.com