Milk Pail
Saturday March 23rd 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Milk Pail is closing. Forty-five years an institution in the community, a place where CEO types can find (or ask for) some exotic cheese no one’s ever heard of, where the family just scraping by can go to find produce for far less than anywhere else; I once noticed I’d been charged fifteen cents for my single zucchini. I did a double take once when I realized that the guy who’d just helped me reach something I’d dropped was the co-founder of Smugmug; he was the brother of my late and much-missed friend RobinM, but I’d recognized him a moment too late.

Steve was able to buy the land under the business all those years ago, and with the distortions from Proposition 13 across the decades, that meant his costs have been very low and he could pass that on. Which he didn’t have to do, but he did.

But his brother-in-law who’d helped manage it died, it’s hard to find retail workers at our local cost of living–although there is one who is, literally, a rock star who loves his day job. Steve’s daughter interrupted her college to help manage the place after her uncle’s death but in the end keeping tabs on a business that was open seven days a week for forty-five years, while the big developer was raising high-rises all around him and cutting off his customers’ parking, wanting his land too, it became just too much. They were tired.

Nobody sells vanilla extract like their vanilla extract and nobody sells it at that good a price. Michelle and I were going there anyway, so while we were at it we asked what a case of those bottles would cost.

Steve’s daughter laughed and said, Well actually we fill those from the gallon jars we buy.

So that would be…? It lasts, right?

She laughed again, envisioning All. That. Baking. It was four gallons to a case and she didn’t know how much they would charge, she would have to find out.

We gave her a phone number and she’ll get back to us. They’ll be open for several more months. But the land is sold and the deal is done. The city okayed an eight-story office building going in there.

As we headed out, there was Steve himself and he and I threw our arms around each other, remembering those hearings at city hall together. He’d been so gratified at the outpouring of community support, yet again–and the number of people who’d told him they were just glad he hadn’t died of overwork in his store. Yeah him too.

It was time.

There were so many people trying to get into his small parking lot that traffic was backed up into the next block as we left. Nobody sells the stuff Steve sells. Nobody. You want newly-picked Violette de Bordeaux figs? In their season he has them. Locavore heaven. The place is a treasure.

Michelle and I each came home with an 8 oz bottle of that double-strength vanilla, just because.

3 Comments so far
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I thought of you when I saw the news about this. Sad for all.

Comment by Renee 03.24.19 @ 7:56 am

8 stories of offices doesn’t seem like value added. So sad.

Comment by Jayleen Hatmaker 03.24.19 @ 8:25 am

I’m so sorry. One can totally understand his reasoning, but it’s sad anyway.

Comment by ccr in MA 03.25.19 @ 7:36 am

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