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December 12, 2012

Taste Bud: A market like an old-time corner store

When I was a kid, there was a neighborhood grocery store two blocks away called Richardson’s Grocery — it was family owned, stocked its wares floor to ceiling on wall shelves, and smelled like 1948.

And when I say it was a neighborhood grocery store, I mean it literally was in my neighborhood. It sat on the corner of Randolph and Lincoln streets in Clarksville, with shotgun houses all around it, the only storefront amongst rows of residences.

I remember during the blizzard of 1978, my dad and I put on our heavy coats and galoshes and trudged up there for bread and milk. And there was Mr. Richardson, sitting behind the counter all alone, waiting to sell us what we needed.

I hadn’t thought about that place in years — but when I walked into Scott’s Village Market in Norton Commons, it all came flooding back. There was the deli counter, the fresh produce, the smallish freezer case and, of course, the giant wall of assorted groceries, complete with a ladder. (That’s right, if you want Quaker Oats, someone’s going to the ceiling.)

And behind the deli case is owner Scott Toombs, waiting to make you a sandwich or ring up your laundry detergent and fresh preserves. The only thing missing is the musty smell of the ’40s.

Toombs opened the market just over a year ago after looking at a number of different possible locations all over the country. His mother lives in Norton Commons, which helped him make the decision (he is also a Louisville native and Trinity graduate).

“My mother was one of the first residents in Norton Commons,” he says. “At first I thought she was crazy, building a house in the middle of a corn field, but after a while the development started to come together, and I really liked the concept. It has a small-town feel to it.”

Toombs also stocks as much local food as he can, and he cooks and cuts all the meat on site — no preservatives added. It is a true throwback.

When I saw the giant slab of roast beef sitting in the deli case, I was immediately smitten. It was cooked rare, so it was pink almost all the way through — just how I like it. And the sandwich I had for lunch was just as delicious as I’d anticipated.

The thing was piled so high in the center that I could barely manage a bite. I had Toombs top it with sliced cheddar (I asked for the sharpest he had — he offered me horseradish cheddar, but I decided to stick with the basics), greens and spicy mustard, which Toombs says is a pretty standard dijon to which they add red pepper for “a little extra zip.”

I also had a cup of New England-style clam chowder — yes, homemade — and it was delicious as well. And a “cup” for $2.99 is a heck of a lot more soup than I had bargained for. You won’t walk out of Scott’s Village Market hungry.

But I understand that the time to really enjoy Scott’s Village Market is on the weekend, when he and chef Travis Miller break out the dry-rub barbecue. They smoke ribs, wings and pulled pork, and generally sell out quickly (note: order ahead). They also make a homemade barbecue sauce that patrons can add after the fact.

However, Toombs advises, “you don’t need any sauce” for Corner Market barbecue.

On Fridays, they make a popular fried pork loin sandwich, cut to order and pounded thin by hand. And if you come during the week for lunch or dinner, he recommends the Meeting Street Roast Beef sandwich.

“The horseradish mayo and caramelized onions are great with the beef,” he says. “I also love the pulled pork on the weekends.”

My curiosity about the groceries high on the shelf got the best of me, however, and I had to ask the burning question: Has anyone ever fallen off that crazy-tall ladder trying to retrieve a container of Quaker Oats?

“In my younger drinking days, falling off the ladder might have been a distinct possibility, but now I don’t worry about falling,” Toombs says. “All the merchandise up there is overstock, so we aren’t up there much.”

That explains why there’s no sign that reads, “Watch for falling oatmeal.”