Rotten Dreads – An Extra Foods Memorial

Two places in Nelson have a special place in my heart – or, more accurately, my stomach. First there’s the Kootenay Co-op grocery store where you’ll find healthy dreadlocked hippies crammed into tiny aisles filled with chaste consumables and $5 carrots.

And then there was the former Extra Foods store, a vast warehouse where you’d find hippies with rotten dreads purchasing $1 cans of carrots with day-glo yellow labels.

“Rotten dreads,” you say? “Isn’t that a bit harsh!” Well, hear me out. When I first moved to Nelson eight years ago, I went to Extra Foods and stood in line behind a guy with 16-inch-long dirty blond dreadlocks spraying out from underneath his knitted Rasta toque. I didn’t really pay much attention to him or his hair until he grabbed his grocery bag and as he turned to leave, one tendril of dread literally fell off his head and onto the check-out’s conveyor belt.

Amazingly, the hippie didn’t even notice part of his head had just fallen off. He just ambled out the door while the sales clerk and I stood there in disgust. Eventually, she took a piece of paper towel, picked up the dread and looked at me for a second, almost as if she was pleading for advice or, worse, wanting to know if I was interested in keeping it. Finally she dumped it into the garbage can.

Then she disinfected the shit out of that conveyor belt.

Today I watched as the old Extra Foods building was demolished, making way for the  Nelson Commons and the new home of the Kootenay Food Co-op. Part of me mourns the loss of Extra Foods but, like a scraggly, unwashed chunk of hair, I believe the time has come to sweep it aside and make way for more wholesome groceries.