Everything cost more than at the local Safeway or Super Wally World, but we loyal customers felt the premium we paid was worth it. The produce was the best within miles. One of the young produce guys could pick out ripe melons like a magician.
Their freshly baked products were outstanding, especially their hamburger buns, which were made with the same sweetened dough they used for their dinner rolls. Even the grand kids said they were the best burgers they've ever had. Some of us love sweet things in any form.
And the meat department. Oui! The butcher is a very cool woman who can select and cut a prime rib roast with the precision of a brain surgeon. It not only exceeds my expectations in sheer beauty, but also when roasted as instructed by her, it is a meal fit for a queen. Why would anyone buy their meat anywhere else?
The rest of the store staff were outstanding as well: friendly, courteous, knew where everything was, and talking to the wine steward was an education in itself. A true Sommelier.
Then ... one bleak winter day I noticed that the store sign was a bit different. Instead of Merlin's Market, it had been changed to Merlin's Mediocre Market.
The tall good-looking manager, who was a member of the Merlin family, was gone; replaced by a man who spent time on the roof of the store and looked more like a longshoreman who was lost.
And one by one, my favorite employees began to disappear. Transferred to a different store; wanted to live in another county. These were the stories we were told about their absence. The best one was, "She asked to be re-assigned," they said about the excellent wine steward who was now working as a checkout person. What a "challenge" for someone of her caliber. I bet she could do the job and make up funny scenarios in her mind at the same time.
And the quality of the produce plummeted. Now the "fresh" stalks of the organic cilantro and parsley I buy for my bunnies were downright flaccid.
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