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    How can you not immediately fall in love with a grocery store whose soundtrack greets you with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Hawaiian take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”?

    The first time a friend asked, “Have you been to Lucky’s yet?” I assumed she was talking about the denim store in Oxmoor Center and naturally rolled my eyes, popping off, “Now why would I want to go there?” She gave me the hairy eyeball and clarified that she was referring to the latest new groovy grocery store: Lucky’s Market, not Lucky Brand Jeans.

    “Where is it?” I asked.

    “Hurstbourne,” she said.

    I said, more vehemently, “Now why would I want to go there?” 

    She shrugged. “Not South Hurstbourne. North.” 

    I said that Hurstbourne is Hurstbourne, and the last thing the East End needed was another damn luxury grocery. She gave up. But I could tell she was thinking what all people think in these situations: You’re wrong, sister.

    This was last June. Over the months, I had various versions of this same conversation with others, sometimes even with random strangers, waiting in line, say, for the bathroom at the movie theater. Still, nothing. I live smack dab between ValuMarket and the Goss Avenue Kroger. I’ve memorized the aisles of Trader Joe’s. I’ve got everything I need. And then some. (Meanwhile, the West End still doesn't have that damn Walmart.)

    But then something happened, and that something was cabin fever. Specifically, my car (which I like to pretend I don’t really want to be in anyway, preferring to walk or cycle to my destinations) got stuck in a snowy, icy hellscape on the hill in front of our house, and it remained that way for more than a week. When I finally got it out, I was so happy to be mobile that I would have driven to Mobile if that didn’t require actually having to deal with Alabama.

    In fact, I was not even fully conscious of what I was doing. I seemed to be headed in the direction of Trader Joe’s (where I knew the wine store parking lot would be plowed and walkable — ahem, Gordo Jackson of Old Town/the Wine Market), but when I got onto Shelbyville Road, I just kept driving east. Oh, my GOD, I nearly shouted as I passed right by Whole Foods and kept going. I drove past the malls, and I told myself that I was a shameless whore, an insatiable slut of the Western ways of greed and gluttony. And then I had to negotiate the Hurstbourne traffic, so I stopped talking to myself altogether and focused only on the road, or I’d surely not be here now to report on what I discovered. 

    OK, first of all, it was not really that bad getting there. Yes, drivers are bastards at those Hurstbourne intersections, but drivers are bastards everywhere. Reckless, angry bastards. But inside Lucky’s Market, nothing and no one seemed reckless or angry. I mean, come on. Iz was on the stereo. And after that Don McLean. Then Jim Croce, followed by Van Morrison. Laura Nyro. The Jayhawks. Nick Lowe. Nina Simone! Nina Simone in the grocery store, people. Face it: If Lucky’s sold nothing but canned beans and corn, I’d have been gobstruck. 

    However, Lucky’s doesn’t sell canned beans and corn. Well, I mean, it surely does, but that’s not where my eyeballs — or my shopping cart — went. So what does Lucky’s have (besides excellent music) that the above-mentioned stores plus Fresh Market don’t have? Well, for starters, Lucky’s doesn’t have the speed bumps of Whole Foods. Kidding, but only the tiniest bit. Plus, everyone working behind a counter seemed genuinely helpful and friendly and not like they might secretly want to stab you.

    Lucky’s is not nearly as expensive as Whole Foods or Fresh Market; it does not have the 1-percent vibe of those places. The prices — or, as they like to say in merchandising, price points — are more in line with Trader Joe’s (so 7-percent vibe?), but the produce is a good deal fresher and more plentiful than TJ’s. Ditto the meat, the seafood, the dairy products, the bulk goods and, most especially, the bread. The bread! Not just the bread that Lucky’s makes in its own bakery but also bread from elsewhere, namely Dave’s Killer Bread from Oregon. Yes, Kroger and Rainbow Blossom have started carrying Dave’s, but, well, not as many varieties and not with as much turnover. The Dave’s Killer Bread story itself is an interesting one, but the main thing you need to know about it is that it’s the best pre-packaged bread in the world. And if you are the kind of person for whom the world revolves around “in-house sausage,” then go to Lucky’s immediately to check out the links in the butcher’s section.

    What else you should know about Lucky’s is that it was started in 2003 in Boulder, Colorado, by Trish and Bo Sharon, whose mission statement in print may not sound all that different from those of TJ’s and WF — sustainable, local, giving back to the community, etc. — but in practice actually is. With a dedication to serve “the Heartland of America” (some 15 stores in 10 states by next year), Lucky’s is not nearly as corporate as these others. It seems neighborhood-y (if only it were located in a neighborhood) and makes you feel just the tiniest bit less heartbroken for the loss of Doll’s and Burger’s markets.

    We’re lucky if Lucky’s keeps it this way. We’d be even luckier if such meccas existed in parts of town outside the Land O’ Plenty. 

    Illustration by Rachael Sinclair

    This article is courtesy of the May 2015 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. 

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