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Fresh & Easy Closing Seven SoCal Stores, and The Best Cloth Grocery Bags

Fresh & Easy Shopping Bag

jgarbeeFresh & Easy Shopping Bag

Fresh & Easy is closing seven Southern California stores citing sluggish sales, reports the Los Angeles Times. Not that it's much of a dent in the El Segundo-based company's 184 retail grocery outlets in California, Arizona and Nevada, as the company is reportedly rolling out two dozen more stores in the coming months throughout L.A. and Orange County.

What's more interesting is that retail food consultant Jim Hertel attributes part of the struggles to American versus British produce culture clashes (Fresh & Easy is a subsidiary of Tesco, a British retail company). At Fresh & Easy, the produce is all wrapped in cellophane, reportedly to preserve freshness. Hertel says that Americans consider plastic-wrapped food less fresh (though Trader Joe's seems to have somehow surmounted their suffocating produce issues). And perhaps more culturally significant, we prefer to squeeze our tomatoes before buying them.

Well, he does have a point. And yeah, we're expecting a Misery Bear tomato-squeezing comedic short by the BBC any day now: "Misery Bear Goes To Fresh & Easy in America."

Produce issues aside, the British sure know how to make a cloth shopping bag. Fresh & Easy's pocket-sided bag (they have several bag styles) is hands down our current favorite. Quite a statement, we realize, as there is an endless array of cloth bags to choose from, and we often don't even use the flimsy grocery stores versions in favor of sturdier canvas bags we find on our own shopping time.

But it's the wine side of the equation that Fresh & Easy has down with their bags. Most grocery stores have beverage bags that look like a cardboard carrier for a 6-pack of beer, only in structured cloth, such as the ones you find at Trader Joe's and elsewhere. Yes, you can certainly use the pockets for more than wine if you're particularly skilled in canned tuna and dried bean stacking. But the Fresh & Easy bag is pretty ingenious. Those six beverage pockets are on the sides of the bag only, and made of cloth so they collapse into the sides of the bag if all are not filled. That means the bag still has an inner-cargo area to actually fill with groceries if you only, say, buy two bottles of wine.

It's the best of both cloth bag worlds, the beverage and the produce side. Sort of like being able to squeeze your tomato and eat it, too.


More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com.