I've been asked to come out of retirement to review Tacoma's newest and most talked about grocery store - IGA's (Independent Grocers Alliance) Tacoma City Grocer. The word "retirement" can bring up all sorts of visuals: relaxing on the front porch, gardening, long walks on the beach with your special someone and list keeps going. If only that were true. ...
When I heard there was finally going to be a new downtown grocery store, I was skeptical. Not that it isn't a good idea; it's more of a "chicken or the egg scenario." Will there be enough support for a store in an area that doesn't have a lot of residential housing and little foot traffic, or will the store be a draw to build more residential and attract more people to the area? Either way, it's a gutsy move and I applaud their efforts.
I suppose the bigger question is will this new store affect Stadium Thriftway? Honestly, I don't know. Prices at TCG seamed to be a little better than Stadium T-Way, but this could just be a temporary lure. Parking is definitely a factor. Stadium has always struggled with parking, but compared to TCG, it's friggin' Cheney Stadium parking.
So enough about the "what ifs", and let's get down to the grocery stuff. This is a welcoming store. I was there at around 6 p.m. on Saturday and there was a small but nice cross section of customers shopping this balmy evening. The staff was very friendly, asking if this was my "first time." I felt like I was back in high school after the prom. All kidding aside, they were all very friendly and eager to help.
TCG is shiny, new and well organized. So pretty and fresh, you just want to look and not touch. Clearly, not the store's goal but I wouldn't expect anything less in a new store striving to impress. Sidebar: someone recently pointed out to me that retail spaces in the Northwest have embraced exposed ductwork like no other area in the United States. I have to laugh, because it's true! Just look up. I like it.
The wine selection is pretty comprehensive considering there is no wine steward in this location. You will find your standard boring grocery store brands but plenty of smaller labels like A-Z, Revelry and Charles Smith. The beer section impressed me even more. IGA has done their homework and have devoted about 60 percent of the set to craft beer and craft "poser" beer. The rest is your domestic yellow beers. It's all about the Benjamins, baby. Craft beer makes (and costs) mo' money.
Boar's Head brand has their claws deeply clenched into this store with their many deli meats, condiments, pickles and cheese. You'll also see Cucina Fresco pastas and sauces, Twin Brook Creamery milk with their reusable glass bottles, and Beecher's cheeses and curds. Clearly TCG has embraced specialty foods, but they also have a substantial line of their own store brand (IGA) that is competitively priced and quite substantial in selection.
Charlie's Produce in Seattle is a considered a high-end produce distribution company and they are providing some fresh grab-and-go salads like Caesar, Greek, spinach, tabouli/goat cheese and Asian to name a few. This is a great option for workers downtown looking for something to grab and go for lunch.
Speaking of grab and go, the deli is comprehensive - all be it a little heavy on the fried food. But while you down that delicious jo-jo, be sure to take a gander at some of the local art created by Frank Ricco. It really compliments the airy, clean lines of the deli seating area.
Tacoma City Grocer is no Metropolitan Market or Whole Foods, but it's a welcome retail presence in a downtown area the desperately needs more places for people to shop. You will be sure to find this downtown girl cruising the aisles at TCG. Thank you IGA for taking this leap!
Tacoma City Grocer
7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
1250 Pacific Ave., Tacoma