Stocking Up on the Important Stuff


Photo by Michael Jasmund for Unsplash


I’m hoarding toilet paper. Ever since January, when I found out Stop & Shop is going to acquire all of the King Kullen supermarkets, I’ve been purchasing packages of toilet paper by the cart-full.

When I first heard about the acquisition, I was unconcerned. I don’t particularly care where I buy my groceries. Whether they’re called Queen Quixotic, Shop & Pay, or Buy ‘n Eat, all supermarkets are the same. Orange juice is orange juice. Then I remembered our local Stop & Shop in East Hampton doesn’t sell my brand of toilet paper. I can only get it from the King Kullen in Bridgehampton. And my brand of toilet paper is special. It’s tube free.

Scott brand Tube Free toilet paper doesn’t have the cardboard tube in the center. When we finish the roll, there’s no tube to throw out. Our waste has less waste. It’s just my family’s small contribution to saving the planet, one loo-roll at a time. You’re welcome.

Unfortunately, the earth friendly nature of my tube free toilet paper is negated by the fact that I drive twelve miles (more in the summer, when I take the back roads), out of my way to purchase it. I try not to think about that. Instead, while I’m coaxing the dispenser rod through the flattened center of the roll, I think of what I’m doing to protect the globe. I also take a moment to wonder why my husband can never, ever replace the toilet paper. And I take some time to reflect on how the paper should always roll off the top of the dispenser. Never the bottom. The bottom is an abomination. Mostly, though, I bask in the glow of my environmentalism. It allows me to be smug. Not Tesla owning or vegan smug, more like meatless Monday or remembering to bring a reusable bag to the store smug.

Supermarkets were universal for those of us who grew up in the suburbs. I remember sitting in the front of the shopping cart and begging my mother for the eye-level candy at the check-out. Candy placed there by the supermarket, knowing my mother would eventually break and buy me some. When I was older, my mother would let me stay in the car while she ran in for a few things. I would switch to the radio station I preferred and hoped she wouldn’t notice during the trip home. And when I got my driver’s license, I would offer to dash to the grocery store to pick up something my mom forgot, just for the opportunity to drive the car.

I have King Kullen to thank for those developmental milestones. Michael Cullen invented the modern supermarket in 1930 and opened it in a vacant garage in Jamaica, Queens. Mr. Cullen foresaw suburbia and created large stores with expansive parking lots where people could drive to easily, pick up their items and bring them home. In 1937 King Kullen brought in shopping carts, an innovation to help people buy even more products. Those same shopping carts are in the Bridgehampton Commons parking lot to this day.

As an adult, my goal is to stay out of supermarkets. The lines are long, the milk is all the way at the back, and there’s always a shopping cart lurking in the parking spot I’ve aimed my car at. I’d rather spend that time walking along the beach or frolicking with my family – who am I kidding – I’m spending that time on my phone. But scrolling through Twitter or playing Angry Birds is still better than the chore of grocery shopping.

Here in the Hamptons, we’re lucky to have a myriad of ways to obtain our groceries. I’m not beholden to any particular shopping method. They all fill my needs. I Peapod heavy items. I like the butcher at the Red Horse Market. In the summer I buy my produce at the Beach Lane farm stand in Wainscott. And I purchase my toilet paper at King Kullen.

During my last visit, I asked the customer service clerk if Stop & Shop will sell all of the same products that King Kullen does. She didn’t know. I asked if she knew when the take-over will happen. She had no idea. I loaded three more packs into my cart.

In the past several weeks, I’ve purchased fourteen packages with twelve mega rolls each. The wrapping claims that twelve mega rolls are equivalent to forty-eight regular rolls. If I multiply 48 times 14… carry the three… 192, plus 480…. that’s 672 rolls of toilet paper. I don’t know if that is enough to hold my household until I find a new supplier. Plus, we keep using it.

I’m right to be hoarding it, even if my husband does shake his head every time I lug another twenty-four rolls into the house. A friend told me that a while back, when there was a longshoreman’s strike in Hawaii, the first thing the islands ran out of was toilet paper. I’m not suggesting that the closing of the King Kullen will cause an end-of-days scenario here in the Hamptons, but there’s nothing wrong with being prepared.


East Hampton Press, Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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