I kept hearing about Lucky’s Market, the new East End grocery that opened in May at 200 N. Hurstbourne Lane. My first response was that it was just another one of those trendy stores trying to sell us designer potato chips for $6 a bag and grass-fed, free-range radishes for $2.99 an ounce. I’m not knocking those chains at all (I’m a Trader Joe’s junkie), but it’s kind of been done.
Still, I kept hearing about this place, so I decided to check it out. Apparently, they source stuff locally when possible. They cut their own meats and cure their own bacon. They have crazy good sales that, at times, make no sense. And week-long sales intersect every Wednesday, making it an optimal shopping day.
One thing I noticed right away was limes. Yeah, I know, but bear with me. I eat a lot of limes, OK? But I recently paid Kroger a buck for two limes that started to turn brown within a week, and Lucky’s Market – which is a small chain based in Boulder, Colo. – had fresh, green, delicious-looking limes at five for a buck. Are you kidding me?
I saw fresh-cut cantaloupe, diced into bite-sized squares and ready to eat, for $1.98 a pound. One recent sale had Haas avocados going two for a buck. Seriously? That’s nuts. Bananas, 69 cents a pound. Grapes, 98 cents a pound.
Also, the produce is beautiful at Lucky’s. There was the lime-green sea of, um, limes next to a rolling orange ocean of, well, oranges. Peppers, red, yellow and green, lay side by side in a glorious rainbow of goodness.
And interestingly, they’ll let you try anything you want before you buy it – all you have to do is ask. I was chatting with an employee, Brandon, who asked me if I had tried the house-made pizza. I said no, and he darted away, returning momentarily with a sliver of cheese pizza. Delicious cheese pizza.
Sushi? Yeah, they have a sushi chef on duty. I hadn’t tried that either and – ZOOM – away went Brandon, who quickly returned with a slice from a California crunch roll. I hate cucumbers, but I had to admit it was quite fresh-tasting.
Oh yeah, I probably buried the lead: There are also $2 craft beer pints, all day every day, that you can sip while you shop. You can also get 2-ounce tastes for a quarter each. Lucky’s is not your father’s A&P.
After strolling around the store a bit, I planted myself at the “bar” and began talking with Eryn, the friendly beer-slinger of the day. Two regulars sat nearby, sipping beers. When people wandered by, Eryn would announce, “Hey folks, we have $2 local craft beers on draft. You can drink while you shop.”
People looked absolutely dumb-founded. It was as if she had tossed them a live hand grenade and they were looking about in stunned silence as if to say, “What do I do with this?” But confusion quickly turned to joy in most cases.
My favorite exchange was when Eryn asked a young couple, “Do you folks drink beer?”
They looked at each other, then the man said, “Of course.” Sold.
“That’s awesome,” remarked another customer as he walked away with his pint in hand.
One gentleman strolled by with his toddler granddaughter riding in a shopping cart. He bought a beer, which he placed neatly in a custom cup holder attachment.
“We come in every day and get a beer,” he said. (Note: The little girl was not offered a pint.)
As I sat there, I noticed an employee making fresh peanut butter. Fresh peanut butter? I walked over and asked if I could have a sample, and she asked which one I wanted to try. Yeah, there were four, so I chose the – are you ready? – chocolate peanut butter. Holy cow.
There are grains, there is candy, there are coffee beans – name it, it’s at Lucky’s, and you can buy it by the ounce or the pound.
Kyle Outzs lives nearby and has become a regular, and not just for the beer. One thing he likes about Lucky’s is that so much is sold by weight rather than being pre-packaged, allowing him to take better advantage of deals and get the quantities he wants. He also feels the food is fresher than what he would buy at Kroger, meaning it will last longer.
“I still have lettuce I bought two weeks ago, and it’s not wilted,” he said. He then raised his glass of $2 Falls City Hipster Repellent and added, “And of course this the first grocery store I’ve seen that could do this.”
Whole Foods also has fresh food and beer tastings. But Lucky’s has some serious buzz going out in the East End, for the cheap beer and for the prices.
“Whole Foods?” Eryn said. “Whole paycheck.”
Interestingly, Lucky’s was started a decade ago as a local concept by former child actor Bo Sharon, who appeared in TV shows like “Moesha” and “Boy Meets World,” as well as several films. But hey, Lucky’s is still a chain. When I asked to get some questions answered by the local marketing representative, I was referred to the corporate office. Specifically, I wanted to know just how local Lucky’s manages or strives to get in each market.
Kristen Tetrick, Lucky’s corporate director of marketing, got back with me a couple of days later, and said much of it relies on the time of year and what is available seasonally, along with word of mouth. If customers request a specific local product, Lucky’s will do its best to stock that product.
“We want the scoop on everything from local coffee roasters to gelato and everyone in between,” Tetrick said. “I’d say we’ll always make more room on our shelves for area producers. If it’s local and it’s available, we do our best to meet the demands of our guests and introduce them to the best Louisville has to offer.”
Regardless of how many local items they sell, the comfortable feeling there was palpable. Even the signage suggested retro, an obvious nod to a time when we all shopped at the neighborhood grocer. Sure, that’s just good point-of-sale marketing, but it’s also evidence that Lucky’s is committed to making this un-local local concept work. Some of the best advice I ever heard was that it is important to become a part of whatever community you’re in. At least Lucky’s seems to be trying.
Oh, and did I mention Lucky’s has $2 pints of local craft beer? And limes.