Meet Me in Meats

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I’m so grateful to the Town of Rowley for setting up the Ipswich Community Center.

I’m talking about the Market Basket on Route 1. This is truly a convenient, and inexpensive, gathering place for Ipswich residents. I almost never visit Market Basket without bumping into friends or acquaintances from our fine town.

It’s a good thing to have a community center. It fosters, uh, community. You can catch up on the latest neighborhood gossip while waiting for your number to be called at the deli counter. You can slander selectmen in Sodas. Swap start-of-school-year stories between Sugar and Spice. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to swing around the end of the deodorant section and find yourself face-to-face with that special someone who’s been avoiding you because they still owe you money. (Ahem: You know who you are.)

Market Basket is really the only feasible place for an Ipswich community center. Every other possibility has some disqualifying hindrance:

  • The Performing Arts Center is out; it’s too big, and you have to rent it in advance. You don’t have to rent Market Basket; you can walk in anytime it’s open, totally free of charge. No need to plan ahead! Drop in and see who’s there! Say! Stevie! S’happenin’?
  • Zumi’s and Sofia’s are out; they can’t handle more than a few of our 13,175 residents at once, and neither takes plastic. Market Basket, on the other hand, can accommodate hundreds of Ipswich residents at once. I know this because of the hundreds of Ipswich residents I’ve run into there on a single grocery run. Plus, at Market Basket, you can pay with an actual modern-day debit or credit card. Imagine!
  • Shaw’s is out. Sure, it’s more or less centrally located in our town, just 1.2 miles from the geographical center of Ipswich; but some folks feel Shaw’s is too small too, or too pricey, or the selection too limited. At Market Basket, you can find pretty much whatever you want — and they have aisles wide enough for a four- or five-neighbor confab. I haven’t actually seen Tammy and Tanya set up camp chairs in Canned Vegetables and turn the kids loose for an hour or two, but I think it’s theoretically possible.
  • The library is out; you have to be quiet there. At Market Basket, when you happen to notice a fellow Ipswich resident, even if you’re squeezing avocados and they’re all the way up in Potatoes, you can call out their name — “Yo, Billy!” “Dude!” — and nobody will shush you. Rowley hardly requires any permits.

You think you have a better location in mind for an Ipswich Community Center? I’d like to hear it. Forget En Fuego; what if someone doesn’t like Mexican food? Forget the Visitor Center; crowds make the volunteers nervous. Forget Old Town Hall — unless you’ve got a couple million lying around for renovations. I think we can also rule out anyplace that does fancy weddings or secret handshakes — so don’t even think Hellenic or Masonic.

Some say the Ipswich Farmers Market, on Memorial Green, is the perfect community gathering place. I agree — up to a point. But it’s only on Wednesday afternoons, and sometimes you may want to chit-chat with your neighbors on, say, a Saturday morning, when you don’t have a thing in the house to feed the kids, or a Thursday evening, when you suddenly realize you’re out of toilet paper. A community center is also better without mosquitoes. Plus, by the end of October, the Farmers Market will pass on to wherever farmers markets go in winter. (Woburn?) Soon thereafter, our Green will be a craggy, frozen subcontinent, like a massive slick of tragically spilled mud-flavored Italian ices — and Market Basket will still be toasty warm, with staffers smiley and perky and inviting.

So make no mistake, the place to meet your Ipswich pals is Market Basket. In Rowley. Also, because Market Basket is in Rowley, you get all these wonderful benefits without costing the Town of Ipswich one thin dime.

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