Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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Melissa SiigFor almost 20 years, the Tahoe City Save Mart was my grocery store. It wasn’t because it was the best grocery store in the area (let’s be honest, at times the produce left something to be desired), but it was the closest to my house. It was an easy 10-minute drive to pick up necessities or to buy groceries on my way home from town. After 20 years, and despite all the aisles being rearranged seemingly every few months, I knew where everything was that I needed. The French onion dip my husband loves? In the refrigerated section near the raviolis. The gluten-free bread my son eats? At the beginning of the freezer aisle on the left, top shelf.

A grocery store, in a way, is a home away from home. It is a place we all must go at least once a week, or in my case as a non-meal planner, much more often. As with any place we frequent regularly, you get to know the nooks and crannies, and the people. Over my two decades shopping at Save Mart, all of it became familiar — the space, the employees, the customers — and as such, it became a source of comfort. The feeling that I got when I entered the store and knew exactly where to head to quickly grab a carton of milk, or when Joe, the manager, and I would discuss how busy town was while he bagged my groceries, reminded me of the ’80s TV show Cheers and its famous tagline: “Where everybody knows your name.” 

Now Save Mart is gone. Since mid-October of last year, the store at the western edge of Tahoe City has been sitting empty after the landlords did not renew its lease. Safeway, Tahoe City’s only other major grocery store, located on the other side of town, will be moving in, but not until the beginning of 2025 after a full remodel. This means Tahoe City will only have one major grocery store for the foreseeable future. (In all fairness, Tahoe City also has New Moon Natural Foods, which is the go-to place for high quality items and excellent organic produce, but is too small to have everything a shopper needs.)

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I go to Safeway now, as well as stores in Truckee, but it’s not the same. Even after several months of shopping at the Tahoe City Safeway, I can’t find everything I need. The store is overly crowded with tourists and locals since it’s the only game in town. No one talks to me while I bag my groceries. I don’t know anyone’s name.

I miss Save Mart. I drive by and see empty shelves still lit up by fluorescent lighting, the space looking lonely and depressed. Its employees are scattered among our various grocery stores like Safeway and Truckee Save Mart. When I see one of them at checkout, we nod in mutual recognition, as if to say we once had a home, a shared space, a community, and now it’s gone. But as the character Norm Peterson, the bar’s perpetual customer, said in the final episode of Cheers in 1993, after 11 years and 271 episodes: “I don’t think it matters what you love, so long as you love it totally, completely, and without judgment.”

Cheers to that.

Author

  • Melissa Siig

    Melissa Siig ditched international politics in Washington, D.C. in 2001 to move to Tahoe, where she quickly found her true calling — journalism. She has written for regional and national publications, and enjoys writing about community issues and quirky human interest stories. When not at her keyboard, she is busy wrangling her three children, co-running Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, or playing outside.

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