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I actually gasp when I read the news. “Sainsbury’s is closing down!” I tell my husband, waving my phone in his face. “Which Sainsbury’s?” he asks, as if any other counts. “The Sainsbury’s, in town. I can’t believe it.” He looks bemused at my reaction. Why do I care? It’s not our big-shop shop, just the place I pick up odd bits. There’s another, cavernous Sainsbury’s nearer us, but this one is special.

“Sainsbos is closing?!?” I WhatsApp my sister, who will know I mean the one true Sainsbos: Foss Bank, our childhood local. “What will we do?” It’s strange, but good, that we are both back in York after spending most of our adult lives in other countries: we will need each other’s emotional support to cope with this cataclysm.

“Whaaaaat. You’re kidding,” she replies, instantly. I forward the link to the local paper report: it’s closing in January. The lease is up after 40 years and the site owner wants to “redevelop”. I only found out by accident, casually clicking around; there is a single, understated follow-up about shopper disappointment. I don’t understand why it isn’t huge news: Look North, our regional BBC news show, should be covering it nightly, counting down to retail doomsday. Why aren’t there protests in the car park from the local awkward squad (10 to 12 exquisitely articulate, mostly retired academics in Gore-Tex)?

“Poor Joe. How can they just do this?” I type feverishly, thinking of her father (my stepfather) and his decades of ruthlessly efficient trips there for plain yoghurt, hummus, oats and own-brand green-apple shampoo, interrupted only by having to resort to click-and-collect from the car park during lockdown. She sends a broken heart and four frowning emojis: “No, I can’t believe it – this is mind-blowing.” I knew she would get it.

My stepfather gets it, too, of course, but he is more muted; resigned, even. “Time to put my head in the sand,” he texts. “Another cuboid hotel? Boxy, uninsulated flats?” Probably, if recent local development is anything to go by, unless it becomes a giant hen-party venue, garlanded in pink plastic flowers.

“We remember when it hadn’t even opened,” he follows up. I Google Lipton’s, our supermarket pre-Sainsbury’s, in its then cutting-edge concrete arcade, before slipping down a self-indulgent rabbit hole, mourning the lost landmarks of my childhood. Little Bettys tearoom went in 2021 and the post office is soon to become a chain steakhouse. The closure of Banks’ venerable music shop, where I got clarinet reeds and grade exam books, made the national news; it’s becoming a Thai chain restaurant. Bulmers, the secondhand paradise where I got my clarinet and almost everything else, is now a reception for a complex of holiday lets.

I scroll onwards, until I realise I’m on one of those Facebook groups that reminisce about being sent out to play and only coming back for your tea, and nodding. Argh! There is an ever-present danger of drowning in nostalgia when you move back to your home town and bloody Sainsbury’s has tipped me over the edge: I’m becoming a jumpers-for-goalposts Facebook person.

I need to snap out of it: there is no place for sentiment in 2024 retail. Everything is closing, all our darlings; the high street is a gap-toothed grimace of empty units. People don’t shop like they used to – duh – and we are working out what town centres are for now. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter that they are closing Sainsbury’s: there are Morrisons and Waitrose close by, myriad Metros and Locals. It’s weird to be attached to an ugly 1980s outpost of an orange grocery behemoth, I know.

But I am; we are. It’s about emotional geography, family history. This wasn’t my first solo shop (the corner shops are all long gone), but it’s definitely the first place I took my little sister, our regular haunt, a five-minute cut through the back way for forgotten bits, treats, a drink, a shred of independence. It was witness to our evolving tastes, venerated as a wonderland of exotica (jelly cubes, Monster Munch) by my Belgium-raised kids, and the place that fed our family for decades. It’s sappy, but that Sainsbos literally made us. Lend me some Gore-Tex: I’m going to man the barricades.

Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist

#closure #childhood #Sainsburys #tipped #edge #Emma #Beddington

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