20 October 2005

The new and improved Ed store

A couple of days ago I drove over to the Ed store in St-Aignan to buy milk. I was on my way home after doing some other errands. Ed sells milk at the best price and in the best cartons -- the cartons have a neat little plastic spout that you can close to keep the milk fresh-tasting in the refrigerator.

It's sterilized skim milk (which is available at all the French grocery stores) so you can keep the cartons for weeks or even months on the shelf in the pantry before you open them. You don't have to run out to buy milk every few days. Once you open a carton, you keep it in the refrigerator just like fresh milk. The best thing is that the milk tastes good. I buy a six-pack (six litres) for 2.82 euros -- that's about fifty cents a quart.

Well, Ed was closed for remodeling and there were trucks and cars filling the parking lot. I'd never seen so many cars and trucks there before. In fact, there were never more than 3 or 4 cars in the lot when I went there.

Workers were swarming all over the front of the store. I couldn't tell what they were doing, and I had the impression there were actually customers shopping in the store. But there was a big handwritten sign on the front window saying Fermeture pour travaux (closed during construction). So I just drove on out of the parking lot and returned home.

Of course that meant I had to go back to the store a day or two later, because I was running out of milk. I don't see any point in buying milk anywhere else -- the cartons are a pain (you have to cut them open with scissors, they don't reseal, and they are so flimsy that when you pick a fairly full one up you inevitably end up squeezing it just enough so that milk spurts out of the top). Besides, the price is higher.

So I drove back to Ed yesterday after a trip to Oisly to buy some wine in boxes. More about that part later.

Now officially Ed stands for Europa discount, but I think of it as Epicerie discount or "discount groceries." Apparently it's pronounced euh-day, not ehd like the first name. It's a big chain, and it sells basic food products -- nothing fancy, everything at good prices, and in an austere environment. It's sort of like CostCo, but in miniature. Ed and some other chains have built a reputation for their hard-discount (that's the French term!) strategy. For a long time, it seems, many right-thinking people refused to shop there because it wasn't considered chic to do so. The assumption, I guess, was that the products couldn't be good because the prices were too low -- and why would you want people to know you were that economy-minded?

Well, I'm not proud, and I went to shop at the new Ed store in St-Aignan when it first opened last year just to see what it was like and what was available. There I found the milk I like, and I also found a product called fromage à tartiner that is the closest thing to Philadephia cream cheese I've ever found in France. Ed also sells a raw-milk Cantal cheese that Walt and I think is very good. Just for those three products, it's worth a trip to Ed once in a while. Not to mention the 40-eurocent loaves of sandwich bread, good for toast.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I did my milk run chez Ed and again found the parking lot packed with cars. There were also some trucks, and there were people working around the front door of the store. There was a different hand-written sign in the front window announcing Ouverture 11h30. I was glad I hadn't gone there earlier in the morning -- the place had just opened. Judging from all the cars and all the people shopping, it must have been advertised as a grand opening.

I found a parking space out back and walked around the building to the front entrance. Wow, I thought, new checkstands, and about six of them instead of the three there were before. I walked through the front door and lo and behold I found myself confronted with a greatly expanded produce section. Huge, with nice bins of fruits and vegetables. I ended up buying turnips, carrots, potatoes, and lettuce. The whole store was bigger, with wider aisles, more refrigerated cabinets for cheeses, packages of ham and pâté, yoghurt, butter, cream, and on and on. I got my milk and cream cheese and some sliced ham.

The funny thing is that the outside of the building didn't seem any bigger. It's one of those corrugated steel, warehouse-looking buildings. I guess they expanded the public space into what was private storage space.

The last time I went to the doctor's I had picked up a news magazine in the waiting room and noticed an article about the hard-discount grocery chains like Ed. It seems it has become chic to shop in discount grocery stores in Paris and elsewhere. People have realized that the basic products they sell are of good quality. I guess that's what has happened to our Ed store here in St-Aignan. It's been successful and has grown. I think it is going to become my shopping venue of choice now. Life is good.


  1. So...what happens to the little epiceries? It's like Starbucks vs the local coffeeshop, no?-Monet

  2. Next thing you know, they'll be opening a Trader Joe's around the corner ;-)

  3. Susan, there are no TJs or even Starbucks in sight so far. But Starbucks has opened coffee shops in Paris now. I'm not sure how they are doing. Our closest MacDonald's is 20 miles away, in Amboise.

  4. Sadly, Monet, the little épiceries are a thing of the past out here in the country. There isn't a single one in Saint-Aignan. There is one in the village of Couffy about 5 miles east, and it is open -- this is unheard of -- on Sunday afternoons.

    Saint-Aignan and its "suburbs" do have some small chain markets (Proximarché, Ecomarché) and a handful each of boucheries, charcuteries, and boulangeries. But no fromageries and no poissonneries. If you want cheese or fish, you have to shop in one of the four supermarkets around the area (SuperU, Intermarché, Ed, and Champion).


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