I found this old story I wrote when I was 14 about how much I hated Stew Leonards. Half of it doesn’t even make sense or is properly edited, but it’s kinda funny…. I guess I really hated it:
My mom and I pull up in our car. From back in the parking lot I can see a blown up orange pumpkin, held up by wires over the top of the open market. I look up at the light poles around the parking lot, and see pictures of ice cream cones and smiling cupcakes. Great, they think this is Disney world and we’ll have to remember we parked next to the dancing muffins. We park and get out. Dancing muffins. Dancing muffins. We walk past a stack of hay, cow manure, and fertilizer. I don’t understand the hay. It’s probably a prop, not even real. As we grow closer to the entrance I feel my stomach painfully push against my skin and pulsate. This place is disgusting. It honestly makes me sick. I feel nauseous every step around this dizzy dancy land, complete with robotic monsters which are apparently a sorry excuse for a country family of performers. The mother pig, father, and daughter. Each member equipped fully clothed, make up for the girls, and a ho-down instrument which makes up a pathetic mid-west band of pig-people-performers, as I like to think, failed heterosexuals. We have to walk through this giant open market to reach the entrance. I see a costumed cow, next to two security guards. I’m ready to kick it, or at least give the finger, when I second think my moves and wonder why a costumed cow needs back up with security guards. I bet a couple of kids were thinking of the same ideas. We walk past pitiable Halloween decorations. Mini pumpkins for $.79 each, ghosts on a stick for $12.95. I hate the idea that they even have an ice cream stand, which allows every customer who spends over $100 to be entitled to a free ice cream cone. Alright, I’m ready to leave after I step inside. It’s like a sick amusement park gone wrong. A freak show’s market. A blissful county fair gone bad. The first thing we see when we walk in is a sign “Rule number one: The customer is always right. Rule number two: If the customer is wrong, reread rule number one.” Alright, who thought that one up? Was it supposed to be humorous, perhaps a bit comforting to this disturbing atmosphere? I wouldn’t be surprised if they created a promotional Stew Leonard’s Monopoly themed game, with that quote in the middle of the board game, surrounded by different microwave meals of all kinds, created by Stew Leonard’s. Of course this game would only be offered to the lucky 100th customer of the day purchasing Stew Leonard’s homemade lemonade in the spring and then their toasty apple cider with cinnamon sticks for the fall, which I’m sure they must manufacture both…maybe the Egg Nog around Christmas time, where they offer polyester deer antlers and Stew Leonard logo Halloween costumes in the entrance of the store. Frankly I thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. We walked on through the aisles. I slowly walked behind my mom as she pushed the shopping cart, horrified at the twisted ideas of entertainment. Who wants to be entertained while you shop for food? No one. You want to get your food, and leave. An in-and-out of there procedure. No one wants to be charmed by automated animals, singing Chiquita bananas, and advertised N’Sync carpets, which by the way, if you could venture to believe me, that I had seen all of these while walking down the treacherous passageways of vegetable islands. Around every corner we walked, a new computerized puppet would be waiting for us. A ventriloquist hanging from the ceiling. A muscle man, swinging over a chin-up bar. A posh parody of painfully patronizing playful puppets is what it was. I’m still confused if I was in a market or a mad house. The sample carts were quite revolting. People lined up to taste what they trusted to believe were to be sausages. I didn’t think too much of the kids either. Hissing and howling, hanging around inside of their shopping carts. Licking their free ice cream cones. Beating the side of the shopping carts. Giggling and running around their parents, who happily push the shopping carts, thanking god quietly on how blessed they are to have such happy, carefree children, wooing and awing at the beastly creatures. We wander around the never-ending maze, where each shopper is the mouse, trying desperately to find their way out. I pass a talking tree, remembering to had previously seen one in FAO Schwartz, and wonder who copied who. “Farm Fresh Foods” is written everywhere. The meat section is tainted. Dead, raw carcasses were exhibited like a museum across a giant counter, people touching the plastic wrap, observing the meat and choosing their prize piece. Their perverted mascot icon is printed on their labels of their “farm fresh foods” and shown on the top of the receipts. I’m to question why the icon is a happy looking cow, swinging its tail in joy, as a small boy, no more than ten years old, is milking it with an identical smile to that of the blissful cow. Their slogan, which I’m sure the creator of it just couldn’t get enough of, is printed below the picture, on receipts, “Where the customer is always right.” Now, I’m not saying the food is bad too. Some of it is quite exceptional, when having the munchies. I fancy the pizzas and tiramisu. But nothing else is as tolerable. Well, frankly, I think to un-forgo this disturbing place is quite a mission, which I so terribly would love to succeed in as habitually as I wished, learning that many people find these kind of warped places entertaining, and find the sample stations around every aisle appetizing and enticing, as I find them perverse, and revolting, but I guess we’re just different kinds of people. I hope one day everyone will discover Stew Leonard’s as it really is, a filthy, repulsive, and loathsome, vulgar grocery store, if you’d even venture to say such sympathy at the least.