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4,031 miles and what I learned

That’s how many miles I drove during my cross-country road trip. Yes, I know it wasn’t a direct route, but I thought it might be the only time I would have the opportunity to drive across the United States. I wanted to make it worth my while and visit as many family, friends and sites as I could.

Dulles airport in Washington, DC
Cleveland, OH
Indianapolis, IN
Chicago, IL 
St. Paul, MN
Omaha, NE
Rapid City, SD  
Jackson Hole, WY 
St. George, UT
Las Vegas, NV
Seal Beach, CA

Alex and I visited many supermarkets while we were making our way across the country – and not just to buy food. Even though my intention was not to make it a business trip, I just couldn’t help myself. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in, and then live and breathe a family business.

And since Alex has started working at Frieda’s full time (this week, in fact), I took the opportunity to teach her a bit about what we do at Frieda’s when we visit our retail clients’ stores.

Each time we pulled into a new city we would find a supermarket to visit. Some of them were retailers who my company does business with, and some were not. I wanted to find out if consumers had the same selection, variety, quality and freshness in their markets across the country, or was it different for us in California.

I told Alex that the first thing we do when we walk into a supermarket is to stop, take a big, wide look, and ask ourselves, “What’s our first impression?”

  • Appearance – are the displays colorful and full?
  • Is the design and ambiance of the overall store appealing? Does it make me want to shop in the store?
  • How does the store smell? (This turned out to be a big one in a few stores.)

We did this in every one of the supermarkets we visited. Giant Eagle and Whole Foods in Cleveland, Kroger and Marsh in Indianapolis, Kowalski’s in St. Paul, Hy-Vee in Iowa and Nebraska, Wal-Mart in South Dakota, and Albertson’s in Jackson Hole.

What we found out? That fresh produce is alive and well across the country! I was delighted and surprised at the consistent quality and choices available at every store. The Blue Velvet Apricots that Frieda’s sold to our clients the week before were on display at the Whole Foods Store in Cleveland. And they were fresh, ripe and delicious.

We also found one of our jarred products on display at one of our customers’ stores – displayed out of refrigeration. (That was scary for me.) So, Alex got to experience how we approach a store manager, as a vendor, to tell them that they need to throw out a product.

We snacked on lots of fruits and veggies as we traveled, so I was thrilled to find crisp and fantastic-tasting Braeburn apples at the Wal-Mart in Rapid City, SD. The quality was as good as my local supermarket in Southern California. I was encouraged that American supermarkets, no matter where they are located, have the ability to deliver fresh, good-tasting produce to every corner of the country.

So at the end of our trip, I asked Alex to tell me which was her favorite market. Without hesitation, she said “Kowalski’s Market” in Woodbury, MN! Here are a few photos of the store and I think you can see why she chose it.

Kowalski’s Market
Kowalski’s Market
Kowalski’s Market
Kowalski’s Market

Alex got bored waiting for me at the market in Iowa

Alex described Kowalski’s as “The lovechild of Wegmans and Bristol Farms.” (Wegmans is a well-known retailer in upstate New York, and Bristol Farms is an upscale retailer in So Cal.) The décor of the store was warm and inviting. We sampled our way through the meat and deli departments that morning, and filled up our cart with fresh produce for our road trip.

I hope that as you travel this summer, you will consider visiting supermarkets as a way to experience the locale in a different way. Plus, you can buy healthy travel snacks, rather than the convenience store junk food.

In closing, I’d like to share what I learned from driving more than 4,000 miles with my 21-year-old daughter:

  • She made it through 4 years of college just fine. I was glad I didn’t know the details of freshman life – I’m pretty sure it’s a rite of passage.
  • I was surprised how I got less and less annoying to her as the 4 years went by.
  • I learned to not ask her all the questions I had on my mind. She ended up sharing everything I was curious about, not because I peppered her with questions, but because I did not.
  • When we started to compare notes about each of our college experiences, it surprised both of us how similar they were.
  • On our drive home, I treated her as an adult, like one of my closest girlfriends. That, in turn, enabled both of us to share our deepest thoughts, our dreams, our fears… and we laughed a lot.
  • I learned that “everything works out.”

If you ever have the chance to do a long-distance drive with one of your kids – I recommend you jump at the chance! Makes for some great memories.

Back home,

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