Apple Market closes, columnist gets a suntan

Yesterday I was excited to see an article in the Kansas City Star about the closing of Westwood’s legendary Apple Market grocery store, which I’ve been going to since it was called United Super back in the early ’80s. City officials have informed us that the store will be closing soon to make way for a new Walmart Neighborhood Market, but no one I’ve talked to seems to know the exact details.

The column, written by Ink photo director Jennifer Hack, had some nice descriptions of the grocery store’s atmosphere, with its wobbly shopping carts and depressed cashiers. The high notes in Mariah Carey’s “Dream Lover” were barely audible over the loud hum of the prehistoric fluorescent lights is just a great line.

But in true Ink style, the article contained absolutely zero reporting, quotes or facts about the store’s closing, instead detouring into an eight-paragraph (!) soliloquy about the courage it takes to wear a bikini in public. That’s unfortunate, because there are a lot of interesting human interest stories at play in the closing of this notably outmoded grocery store.

If Hack had taken the time to ask the cashiers why they look so depressed, she might have learned that some of them are single mothers who have recently learned they won’t be able to transfer to the business taking its place. She might have also mentioned that the new store will be a Walmart, which was reported by the Business Journal back in early May but strangely absent from this piece. What will these cashiers do next?

She could have talked to the store’s long-time owners, who were known for giving discounts to shoppers buying food for their church and school functions. Walmart will undoubtedly be a cleaner and more modern facility, but it’s hard to imagine it having the same handmade signs, off-brands and personal quirks that made Apple Market what it was. Will having a corporate owned store instead of a locally owned business affect the community at all, or will anyone even notice? Would be interesting to hear what Apple Market owner Alan Wiest has to say after running the place for 30 years.

The author could have looked into the history of the place and discovered that in 2003, Apple Market was the site of Westwood’s only murder, when store clerk Ray Ninemire was gunned down one Friday morning by a man reportedly dressed as Abraham Lincoln. Ninemire, who spent hours drawing signs with folksy slogans like “Park it, Margaret, let’s Apple Market!,” was shot after coming to the aid of a female clerk. A large case file sits on the shelves of the Westwood police department, but the killer was never found. Are they still looking for him, or is the case officially closed?

In my opinion, this kind of stuff would have been much more interesting than Ms. Hack’s lengthy confession that she’s traded in her two-piece for a tankini. But this is the Kansas City Star in the age of Ink, when columns read more like Facebook posts than news stories, and any real reporting is apparently discouraged.

Ms. Hack seems like a nice, thoughtful person, and I wish her the best with her new column even if it seems like she’s just trying to be the new Jenee so far. She might like shopping at Apple Market because nobody there knew her name. But to get a real story, there’s still no substitute for actually talking to people.