FAIRWAY MARKET on the Upper West Side is like an open-air market trapped under a roof. Located on a busy commercial street, the entrance to the store is flanked by open fruit and vegetable stands over a large faded awning which reminded me of street vendors in Thailand.
Inside, there is a scramble of activity. A general checkout line stretches from the cashier stands far back into the dairy products aisle. Lines are everywhere—to the seafood stand, the deli, the aisle with the cooking oils—but they are all rapidly moving forward.
Men in suits coming back from work squeeze through the narrow space between shelves to get around other shoppers: young women with strollers, older ladies in puffy black coats with fur collars, hipsters sampling different flavors of olive oil, a gray-browed man pounding an air piano with one hand as he listens to an iPod.
Two employees hidden in a nook are busy servicing a separate line of customers wanting to get coffee. They take orders, scoop pungent black beans from barrels, sprinkle them into grinding machines, pack the resulting powder into paper packets, and give it to the customers. The nook is heavy with the sweaty scent of crushed beans. Ahead of them is an even larger nook whose three walls are resplendent with fine cheeses.
Two men—one on a ladder—empty a wooden cart onto an unreachably tall pyramid of oranges. It has a sculpted shape formed by perfect layers—like bricks—of fruit, but I notice that the men aren’t forming the newly-plumped oranges into the pyramid themselves. Does this mass of fruit just take on its own shape? (more…)