If you’ve ever driven around Richmond, it’s likely that you were confused the first time you saw Ukrop’s in big letters in a shopping center.  “What the hell is a Ukrop’s?” many a newcomer wondered aloud over the 70 years Richmond’s hometown grocer did its thing here. Though the Ukrop family wouldn’t approve of my profanity, Ukrop’s was a damned fine grocery store with a few noteworthy quirks. Never opening on Sundays or selling beer and wine–and posting a framed picture of a Baptist church in every store imploring customers and associates to “attend your place of worship this week,” Ukrop’s added to Richmond’s parochial feel. It sure helped that their workers would actually ask you if you needed help and find cauliflower for you at a moment’s notice. And that the company donated millions of dollars to local charities and supported so many great events like the Monument Avenue 10k and the Folk Festival, just to name a couple. 

Upon moving here in 1992, I joined the cult of Ukrop’s once I tasted its light, white breastmeat chicken salad, and I toed the line for 18 years, planning my grocery shopping knowing that Ukrop’s was closed on Sundays, making an extra trip for beer and wine, and ignoring the part about going to church. Two out of three.  They had me at Ukrop’s, and now, week by week, the stores are closing since our homegrown grocer sold itself to the devil–I mean Royal Ahold– to re-open in a week as Martin’s–which will sell beer and wine and be open on Sundays and still sell Ukrop’s homestyle food.  Martin’s with Ukrop’s food inside. I’m cool with that. It’s practically ecumenical.  

Oh Ukrop's, we hardly knew ye

Waiting for the Ukrop’s in my neck of the woods to become Martin’s is what passes for excitement in Richmond these days. The Carytown one shut down Saturday, but not before I went in on Friday and saw just how depressing an empty Ukrop’s could be.  The Carytown Ukrop’s doesn’t have an especially tight hold on my heart though it was the hippest Ukrop’s, competing as it did with Ellwood Thompson’s across the way.  And by hippest Ukrop’s I mean not at all hip–just a little more granola mixed with fewer suburbanites.

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