In the 23rd "single can't-miss event of the year" of the Belle Meade social calendar, the new Harris Teeter opened last night to wide acclaim. Well, at least if you could get through the front door. For such an auspicious occasion, your Bites staff sent two correspondents to report from the field.
First, the view from the car seat from Carrington:
CFox here, with a perspective from the subterranean parking garage of the Harris Teeter. After spiraling 20,000 leagues into the bowels of the earth, my family never made it into the gleaming new store. We tried one parking space--between the wall and the cart rack--but, having wedged into it, found ourselves unable to open the doors on either side of the minivan--and keep in mind, those doors glide parallel to the vehicle rather than swing outward. After extricating ourselves from that space, with the concentration of someone removing the funny bone in a game of Operation, we would have given up immediately, were it not for the fact that we could not turn around and were instead forced to proceed in a one-way spiral toward the earth's molten core.
"We missed the party and it was really scary because we went down down down and Mommy said dammit because there were so many cars and we parked and couldn't open the doors but couldn't turn around so we went down down down some more and then turned around and went to get yogurt and I saw my friend and got gummy bears."
Now the view from someone who actually got inside the building, Chris Chamberlain:
Being the childless New Urbanites that we are, my girlfriend and I do not own a minivan. So we took a more pedestrian method to get to the Teeter. That's right, we walked. Granted, while we're remodeling our house in Hillsboro Village we're living next door in Chowning Square, the Melrose Place of West Nashville. Apparently we are genetically unable to live more than a block from a Harris Teeter since we could hit the 21st avenue location with a well-chunked rock from the front porch of our home.
After the initial visit our overwhelming emotion was...jealousy. This Teeter kicks the living crap out of our "regular" Teeter. With an open floor plan, soaring ceilings and spacious aisles, the shopping experience promises to be much less claustrophobic if you can get out of the parking garage. The 21st Avenue Teeter is hamstringed by having to fit within the footprint of the remains of the Compton's Foodland inferno at the turn of the century.
Rising like a phoenix from those ashes, Teeter management claimed that the narrow-ass aisles were designed intentionally to help older customers enjoy a more comfortable and familiar shopping experience, apparently like Sam Drucker's general store. My experience has been that if there are more than two patrons shopping in an aisle, you're better off looping around the back of the store than attempting the Teeter tango to get to the other end.
There's little danger of that happening within the new 57,000 square foot two-story MegaTeeter. An elevator and a wide staircase lead to the second level offering this Birds Eye Frozen Peas view of the front of the store looking toward the ubiquitous Starbucks location. The produce was stacked high for opening day and looked pretty as a picture, albeit a lot less natural than what comes out of the CSA bushel.
Teeter employees and representatives of their wholesalers (wo)manned numerous free sample stands surrounding the perimeter of the store. From the minute that Mayor Dean and other dignitaries cut the opening ribbon, these stations were rushed by a wave of shoppers like Okies in a Conestoga. Woe be unto he that gets between a Belle Meade matron and her free slice of roast beast on a Sister Schubert roll. Charles Barkley would have been proud of the elbows being thrown in the salmon line.
Working counter-clockwise (or as my nephew used to say NASCAR-style) around the periphery, we sampled an excellent selection of imported cheeses, Boar's Head meats and store brand ice cream. We skipped over the offering of a handful of Caesar salad(?!)
This particular store will challenge any chain in Nashville for breadth and depth of product, with an extra emphasis on the luxury and organic grades offered by certain competing Green Hill groceries with their own cultish followings.
In-store amenities include:
Full Service Meat Department and Fishermans Market • Farmers Market Produce and Certified Green Thumb Experts • Deli/Bakery • Hot Asian Bar • Sushi • Salad Bar • Fresh Made Salads • Self Serve Olives • Made to Order Sandwich Program • Rotisserie Items • Full Service Floral and Custom Floral Arrangements • Party Trays • Imported Beers • Custom Cakes including Ice Cream Cakes • Western Union • Coinstar • Red Box DVD Rental Kiosk • Senior Citizen Discount • Double Coupons • Pharmacy • Express Lane Home Shopping • Starbucks
While some of these features won't be for everyone (sent a telegram lately?), the Asian bar alone promises to add at least 10 lbs. to my frame if those damn dry wall installers don't get a move on. While we won't take it advantage of it since we live next door, the Express Lane Home Shopping service for $4.95/order promises the ability to select your items online in advance and to have them delivered to your car (or minivan, Carrington) in a special reserved pick-up parking spot. They even offer to fulfill specific detailed shopping requests like "I'm so old, I don't even want any green bananas." Budum-CHING!
To accommodate your late night cravings, the store is open 7 days a week from 6 am to midnight, with the pharmacy open M-F 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-6pm and Sun 12pm-6pm. After we move back into our home, I'm not sure we'll drive right past the Village Teeter to get to the Harris Theatre, but I'll admit it's going to be tempting. Especially since this is my ride.