Ann About Town: Campbell’s for Groceries

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

At Campbell's, you can find plenty of staples, obtain locally-produced foods (including dairy, syrup, and produce), and even grind fresh nut-butters.

Confession: despite living and working within a mile of Campbell’s Market Basket, I never gave it more than a passing thought. We shopped at Meijer once a week for basics, and walked to the East Lansing Farmers’ Market in season. I knew Campbell’s had baked goods, soups, sandwiches and coffee, but I tended to eat a carton of yoghurt at my desk. I also knew they had basic grocery staples, but…I was going to Meijer on Saturday and couldn’t be bothered to walk downtown for a box of spaghetti or a lime.

At the start of the stay-at-home order, I read articles on ELi about what Campbell’s had to offer, and when I was gifted a generous gift card, I had a delightful shopping spree. This was before they had an online ordering option for groceries (about which more later), so I called the store and an incredibly patient young man helped me with my order, walking around and finding the things on my list.

I bought sandwiches and tomato bisque for lunch, Jerusalem Bakery hummus, navel oranges, cashews, organic carrots, fancy pasta, a chunk of high-quality parmesan cheese, and other things long-since eaten.

In recent weeks, Campbell’s has had rhubarb, a wide variety of fresh herbs, and Michigan wild ramps.

We didn’t need Campbell’s; we enjoyed the good service and equally good prepared food and groceries as a boost to our Shipt orders from Meijer. I was pretty sure I’d go back after the Governor’s order was listed, maybe to meet a friend for coffee, maybe to support the local economy and buy some cheese and crackers for a dinner party. I was pretty sure.

Earlier this week, I placed my weekly Shipt order for Meijer and was dismayed to see the delivery time pushed later and later, until the order was completely cancelled. I started over the following day and although we did receive an order, it was missing several important items. Items like potatoes, carrots, mozzarella cheese, flour, and a red onion. In other words, the essential components of several meals planned for the week.

That day, I learned what it meant to have a local market where the owners remembered and valued us as customers. Turning back to Campbell’s, first, I discovered that, in addition to actively adding the stock that East Lansing residents needed most, Campbells had made it possible to shop and order online, and then pick up the order curbside and without contact.

Ken Campbell has been working hard to get what his customers tell him they need. That includes flour and good coffee.

Not only was it easy – they had ALL the things. Maple syrup from Farmers’ Market fave Droscha Sugarbush; chicken stock; flour, yeast (which everyone is looking for); potatoes; carrots; oranges; lemons, pizza sauce, and mayonnaise.

Although we didn’t need them, we could easily have bought staples like milk (cow, almond, or oat), butter, eggs, coffee, cream, granola, yogurt, and orange juice. There are also  lots of choices for snackers of all ages, including chips, popcorn, hummus, spreads, crackers, and all manner of cookies, muffins, and more.

Also worth your consideration is Campbell’s prepared food. We have tried and enjoyed the Classic Italian & Provolone Sandwich, the Buffalo Chicken Bacon & Blue Cheese Wrap, and the Roasted Veggie & Goat Cheese Wrap, all of which were delicious. (Pro tip: Captain Carnivore noticed that we had some Campbell’s deli salami in the house and added some to make his Classic Italian even better.)

Ken’s business partner Perry Kaguni making a sandwich at the shop.

We can also vouch for the soups, which vary from day to day. Our favorites so far have been the Tomato Bisque and Chicken with Dumplings. My very favorite of all my favorites, though, is the curried tofu salad which I may request for my last meal, licking the last of it from the container while hooded men/doctors/prison officials wait to usher me towards the end.

I am now well beyond “pretty sure” I’ll be a Campbell’s regular, and firmly committed. It is really the grocery store in East Lansing that many of us have wanted for years. The owners are local, the service is excellent, and the response to community needs during the stay-at-home order has been impressive.

I’ll stop there to pick up soup and sandwiches for a light dinner, or an elegant collection of cocktail snacks. I’ll go there for some pasta, olive oil, sauce and Parmesan to make up a housewarming gift, or muffins for a family with a new baby.

Did I mention they sent us a free “thank you” cookie with our order? Yes, I’m 100% sure.

Campbell’s is located at 547 E. Grand River. Pickup access is behind the store, easily accessed from Bailey Street.

Catch more of Ann Nichols’ placemaking column Ann About Town at our series page.

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