Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 191 - The Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store

I have been the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store. While this may seem like an insignificant “I have never...” event to most people reading this blog, the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store is routinely regarded as one of Madison’s most unique hidden locations. Unknown to many in the Madison area, the little establishment resting at the feet of the massive the Oscar Mayer/Kraft plant rarely comes up in conversation, but those that know of it always talk about the variety and incredibly low prices found in the aisles of the store. As a result, I have always maintained a curiosity about the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store that I figured I could satisfy during my “I have never...” year. Considering my limited resources for food during my ongoing “I have never...” challenge to live on a food stamp budget, visiting the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store on this week’s Tasty Tuesday made complete sense. As a result, I set aside time to drive to the location this morning and experience the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store for the first time.

On my drive to the location I tossed around the idea of my “I have never...” plans falling flat as a result of conflicting reports of the store’s status. Over the years the periodic conversations I have had about the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store resulted in final comments ranging from “The store is no longer open” to “The store is only open to employees now.” However, some people insisted the store was still open to the public, which left me feeling hopeful I would have the opportunity to experience the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store firsthand. Uncertain as to whether my attempt would be successful, I found my way to the plant and pulled onto the dead end street leading to its entrance.

The plant
As I pulled into the shadow of the looming brick building, I looked around for any sign of a store entrance. To my surprise, there was nothing on the exterior of the building that implied a company store existed onsite. As a result, I slowed my car to crawl a scanned around the building for any indication my hopes to experience weren’t dashed. In doing so, my eyes eventually came upon an “Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store Parking Only” sign posted in front of a small security booth set back on the plant property. The sight caused me to cautiously pull my car into one of three empty spaces containing the signs and place my vehicle in park. Confused, I hesitated momentarily before turning off my car and exiting to the parking lot.

Doing my best to not look too out of place, I began walking slowly in the direction of the plant, which led me to a small set of concrete stairs leading down to the side of the massive structure. Continuing, I approached the railing along the stairs and looked onto the walkway running below ground level along the side of the towering factory wall. As my eyes moved along the face of the building I noticed a small set of glass doors at the end of the sidewalk with a small blue canopy hanging over it. Although there was no text on the canopy, the familiar emblems representing the Oscar Mayer and Kraft brands were scattered across the canvas surface, which lifted my spirits at the prospect I was staring at the entrance to the enigmatic Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store.

Can this be right?
My pace quickening, I walked down the stairs and toward the glass door. As I approached, I took note of the security scanner along the frame of the door, which was illuminated by a small, steady green light that seemed to indicate entrance to the building was welcomed. As a result, I maintained my path toward the door without hesitation, hopeful I was entering the company store. On cue, the glass door slid open automatically as I approached, placing me in a small vestibule with another set of glass doors leading to the familiar sight of grocery store aisles lined with an endless variety of food products.

Relieved to know I had found the store, I walked in still somewhat expecting to be told to leave the premises. Fortunately, a man standing near to registers at the front of the store gave me little more than a passing glance as I walked in the store, leaving me free to roam the aisles and pick up a few goods for my daily meals. Walking around the store, I was amazed by the expansive inventory of products lining the shelves and coolers. Nearly every Oscar Mayer and Kraft product from each of their independent sub-brands found their place somewhere in the store. Meat products, dairy products, coffees, juices, puddings, and baking goods each found a place in the small retail space, and every product I checked had an incredibly low price assigned to it. In fact, the prices in the store were equal to or better than the lowest sale prices I had seen for the same products during local supermarket sales, which made me glad I decided to gain my first experience with the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store during my experience living on a food stamp budget.

Walking an aisle... The prices are ridiculous!
 The diversity of products and prices kept me occupied for nearly 30 minutes as I walked around the store’s set of six aisles. Finally, after giving the store a walk through a few times I narrowed in on a few items and made my way to the register. With no one else in the store, the man at the register was prompt in helping me and getting me on my way, which gave me enough time to pace myself on my way to work. As I got back in my car and reviewed the few items I picked up from my first visit to the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store, I found myself stunned at the money I saved when compared to what I would have spent at the grocery store less than one mile down the road. Needless to say, I was impressed, and the fact that I found the mysterious little location known as the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store made me a very happy man.

Today’s “I have never...” experience was not the most exciting or even the most intriguing event I have taken on so far this year, but the little adventure I had finding the Oscar Mayer/Kraft Company Store was a great way to spend my morning. My effort helped me satisfy a curiosity I have held for years and exposed me to a new location that offers a lot of familiar products at prices that will help me save a lot of money in the future. Although it wasn’t the most impressive experience I have had to date during my “I have never...” experience, I feel it was time well spent, and I walked away with a neat little story about a unique “I have never...” experience.

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