Most groceries seem to be named for their owners. Super Carlito, Super Ana, Super Don. My friend Ashley was delighted to shop at Mini Super Ashley, but since I have never seen a Mini Super JK here, my own favorite name is that of a not-terribly-tiny shop in Guarare called Mini Super Mario, even though I’ve never bought anything there. But how can you not smile when you see a grocery store called Mini Super Mario? I like to smile.
Most of the smaller groceries in Panama’s interior are similar to the point that I sometimes forget which one I am in. The cash register will be right next to the entry door, manned by a (usually) smiling face. Often, that smiling face is Chinese and speaks English. To the left in the long narrow room will be a secondary counter piled with platanos (plantains), guineos (bananas) and possibly fresh bread of various types. There will be a cooler with milk, water, juices and sodas. Maybe a meat cooler. Often, the smaller the store, the better-looking the meat. Then there will be tall, metal racks filled with non-perishable goods, canned foods and cereals first, followed by soaps and such at the rear. The racks will be back to back, and the aisles tiny and dark.
It’s amazing what you can buy in these little stores. Yesterday the huge Super Carnes was stripped of Claro prepaid phone cards, but I was able to get four of them in a tiny store not far away.
After buying a carton of truly disgusting thawed and refrozen chocolate ice cream from Super Carnes, I learned they turn the freezers off at night (!), presumably to save on electricity. I confirmed this by asking several employees who verified it was true. I am very careful now to buy only non-frozen goods from them. Believe it or not, that includes sausages (!!) which they freeze but sell thawed, although I shop there for almost everything else. The tiny super down the street from my house doesn’t engage in that potentially dangerous-to-the-health-activity, so I now buy my ice cream there.
When they have it.
Also bananas. I think the owner has a banana tree or two because his bananas seem always at perfect ripeness.
I’ve mentioned before that in Central America the rule of thumb is that if you see something in a store that you think you might want, buy it immediately. If you wait, it might not be there when you come back. Maintaining inventory does not seem to be a strong skill for storekeepers here. Case in point, when I see plain yogurt on the shelf at Super Carnes, I now buy as much as I can because within the next twenty minutes my fellow plain yogurt fans will have sniffed it out and it will all be sold. Weeks may pass before I see it again. You might think that such a phenomenon would indicate to the man in charge of purchasing supplies that he could sell a lot more plain yogurt, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.