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Latest Craze: Supermarket Singles Night

August 15, 1986

MARSHFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ Forget bars and nightclubs. The latest ″meet″ market is the local IGA, Price Chopper or Purity Supreme, where singles nights have people cruising the aisles looking for breakfast cereal and maybe someone to share it with.

Take the event held last Wednesday at the Angelos supermarket in this Boston suburb of 3,300 people. About 800 people stuck on name tags for four hours of ″shopping.″

″You don’t meet people in singles bars because if you do, they’re phonies,″ said Donna McKee, as men in Hawaiian shirts and women in party dresses paraded by. ″I don’t know if this is the answer, but it sure is a cute way to meet people.″

Couples danced in the aisles while a disc jockey near the produce section played rock ‘n’ roll through the store’s Muzak sound system. A juggler tossed frozen pizza. Some people walked around for hours with near-empty carts.

″I don’t need any more groceries man, I’m just cruising around looking for her,″ said 30-year-old Bob Plausse, who met a woman earlier and wanted to ask her for a date. Too late; she was gone.

Plausse shrugged. ″This is a less threatening environment and you can come away with groceries if you don’t come away with anything else,″ he said. ″I wish they’d have this in a laundromat. I’d get my laundry done sooner.″

One of the first supermarket chains to try singles night was Price Chopper, with 58 stores in four Northeastern states. Five times since November, Price Choppers in Albany, Syracuse, and Schenectady, N.Y., Scranton, Pa., and Pittsfield, Mass., have attracted singles by offering ice-breaking games, grooming tips, free samples and aerobic workouts.

Purity Supreme, a Boston-based chain with 63 stores, including Angelos, has also had success.

″The first night we did it, it was nutso,″ said Michael J. Mahoney, a spokesman for the chain. ″I walked out and it looked like a nuclear war. People were crowding in to register. The police had to barricade the parking lot because traffic had backed up onto route 128.″

Word-of-mouth tales of success and articles in trade magazines has other supermarkets are doing the same. At the Shop ‘n Bag in Cherry Hill, N.J., sales went up 72 percent one night when 1,200 singles showed up. IGA in State College, Pa., and Star Market in East Providence, R.I., held singles nights, and Pathmark in New Jersey and Stop ‘n’ Shop in Boston are considering starting their own.

Singles represent a growing share of supermarket receipts, and the singles nights seem to be a natural way to attract them. ″The people who don’t normally shop us come back because they see what we have to offer,″ said Mahoney.

Will supermarkets become the singles bars of the 1980s? Shoppers at Angelos had mixed reactions.

″I think its good,″ said Jon Andre, 22, a waiter from Quincy. ″It definitely a less formal approach for people to meet people. In a bar you feel like you have to do different things. Here you can do what you want.″

″I don’t think it really works,″ said Susan Suddath, 33, a research librarian in Boston. ″It’s just not the right environment. People are more used to being closely integrated in a bar and at parties where you’re forced to talk to each other.″

Some women complained about the lack of men, who were outnumbered by about four-to-one. And some complained about the non-singles who came in for their regular food shopping.

″A lot of females with gray hair and wedding rings are grabbing me,″ said Peter Hampton, a 28-year-old research consultant. ″You can’t keep them out, but they’re abusing what’s going on.″

A lot could be told about intentions by what was in, and not in, the shopping carts. ″You know to stay away from a man buying Pampers,″ said Carolyn Bartley.

The key to singles night at Angelos were the name tags. Each contained half of a well-known pick up line, and the singles sought out the person wearing the other half. So ″What’s Your″ had to find ″Sign,″ ″This Could Be The Start″ sought out ″Of Something Big,″ and so on. Completing the phrase allowed the couple to enter a drawing for a free trip to Disney World; some people met several ″other halves″ and registered a dozen times.

If the evening led to any serious relationships, it was not immediately apparent. But Mahoney was optimistic.

″People have been saying for a long time that the best place to meet a guy or a girl is in a supermarket. Who knows, maybe we’ll have a wedding next year. Could you picture that in a supermarket?″

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