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.

5 thoughts on “Apple Market closes, columnist gets a suntan”

  1. Spitty, Instead of complaining about this blog post, why don’t you write your own blog post about the closing of Apple Market and the Star’s (non) coverage of it? Until you do, you’re just a whiner!
    Seriously dude, criticism. Look it up.

  2. There are appropriate moments for complaint, and this appears to be one. Every time someone makes a choice about what they are going to “say” about a place, its people, and themselves in relation to it, that person would be wise to understand that there is no expression without consequences. This is the fact of individuality: you and I are here, but you and I are different. Perhaps Hack understands this, but given the gravity of the situation, and the levity of her writing, it’s fair to complain that, in short, the opportunity to mark this place and its people in time was spoiled by a naive act of creativity.

    Complaint is not always attack, and it isn’t in this case, from what I can tell. Any great writer—no, any great adult—has been told once or twice, early on, that they’ve been naive, that they missed it, and it was ugly. Whether Hack ever hears that about this one story, who knows. Perhaps it will take a few. But the writer here has right to complain. He has done so with precision and measure. It’s not the most pleasant thing in the world, but the world isn’t all pleasant. His right to do so as he has is an act of democratic membership, and if such complaints weren’t filed, so much—so much—would be rampant.

    Shame is over done, and often self-inflicted. But, if now and then, a public complaint for our mistakes reminds us to look over our shoulder, and to take care in what we give the world, then shame has its uses.

  3. You know, her column had something to say. It actually provided some insight.

    Now, read yours. Bitch, bitch, bitch, whine, whine, whine. Waah waah waah. Where’s your two cents?

    You want to do something about it, fine. Go write about the supermarket. But nobody wants to read your bitchy-ass snark. Nobody.

    Some “writer” you are.

    1. Dear Spitty,

      Don’t get your bikini bottoms in a bunch. My point — in case you missed it — is that Ms. Hack missed an opportunity to tell some real stories about real people in favor of an easy essay with a lengthy detour about where to get an anonymous suntan.

      I thought she did a good job describing the atmosphere of the store. Other times it sounded patronizing. If these are “her people,” why didn’t she bother to talk to any of them for her newspaper column? I would have taken up the task, but “writing” (as you say) for the KC Star is not what I’m paid to do.

      I have done my best to be respectful to Ms. Hack, a clearly capable writer who can and will improve. There’s enough vapidity, cocktail guides and me-ish bullshit in Ink as is, and she has an opportunity to transcend that with a bit of actual reporting.

      Of course, these are just my opinions — take them for what they are. I recognize that you are probably just defending a friend or family member, so I’m doing my best to be nice as well as signing my name. Next time I expect the same courtesy from you.


      Lucas H. Wetzel

    2. Glad I read this post. Thoroughly enjoyed and agree with a lot of it. That said, the Walmart market is way better.
      Oh, and you, “Spitty”, must be a very unhappy person. So sorry that whoever did whatever they did to you, whenever they did it. Hope you don’t break a tooth when you bite your pillow tonight.

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