When the Howell Village Market at 505 E. Grand River Ave. closed for “remodeling,” I hoped for a quick tranformation.
Inside, the market had been looking shabby, and the wall of leaking freezers cocooned packages in ice; outside, the parking lot was a pot-holed free-for-all.
Eternal optimist that I am, I hoped for a shinier, brighter Howell Village Market to emerge from what was reported to be several months of renovations, but a wise person told me the store would never open again.
“You just can’t close for a few months like that,” she said. “People develop other shopping habits and move on. It doesn’t make sense that it will open again.”
I am sad to say that wise person was right.
Now, instead of having a convenient little market downtown, the site will be a Family Dollar store, according to Howell City Manager Shea Charles.
I’ve got nothing against dollar stores, but I’m thinking we’ve got more than our share of them in the Howell area. I also find myself mourning the loss of the store I never stopped calling Sefa’s.
When we bought our little downtown bungalow and moved to Howell, Sefa’s came highly recommended, and for good reason: I found the market convenient, and its reputation for great meat well-deserved. The market’s size and location was ideal for folks like me who shop in short bursts, or when there’s not a drop of milk in the house, or when you needed something quick and great to prepare; pork chops were a favorite great-dinner-at-the-last-minute choice.
Like most great little markets, Sefa’s was a social place, too, part of the fabric of life in Howell. I can’t recall a time that I didn’t run into someone I knew there.
When Sefa’s became the Howell Village Market, I waited for it to trade up to hard-to-find gourmet items and organic produce. I hoped for it to embrace the style of a Trader Joe’s or Hiller’s Market, and while it never achieved my dream, it remained a convenient, well-loved place to shop a few times a week.
When my son was much younger, I’d let him run inside alone to buy milk. He felt grown-up, independent and trusted; he felt safe, too, as he knew I was parked just outside the door. I can’t imagine ever letting him loose by himself in a big supermarket.
I long thought Howell a lucky little town to have such a convenient place to get groceries within walking distance of so many homes. It was one of the things I loved about the town in which I chose to live.
Whether the disappearance of our downtown market is a sign of the times, or the suburbanization of America, or a reflection of our changing shopping habits, I can’t say.
All I know for sure is that I, for one, am sad.