Tuesday, August 13, 2019


There's a grocery store chain in Utah called REAMS, and this place is a trip.

First of all, this is what it looks like on the outside:

No, that picture is not from the early 80s. That is what REAMS and the cars currently parked in front of it look like today.

At REAMS, it is always Utah in 1983.

There was a REAMS down the street from my house when I was growing up. It was our go-to store. Why wouldn't it be? In one single stop you could buy cantaloupe, one of those giant rainbow jawbreakers, and jeans.

Side note about the jawbreakers. These were the childhood version of knitting for me.

They took weeks of concerted dedication to get through. The outer layer was made of some kind of milky powder substance. This was probably the most challenging section to penetrate. I would usually already have several sores on my tongue by the time I even got to the orange subsurface.

We would keep these in sandwich baggies that eventually collected our blood and dried spit as we held the candy up to our mouths and vociferously licked away to a rerun of DuckTales. Woohoo.

Well I don't know about your family, but in my family, we got these jawbreakers from REAMS. They were displayed in a large pile next to the video rental section, which exclusively contained VHS tapes of three or four episodes of children's television shows and straight-to-video low-budget family films.

The store smelled like if Wonder Bread was baked in an old library. The linoleum floor was a dull yellow, and there was always sad country music blaring through the crackling ceiling speakers.

But back to the jeans. "REAMS jeans" were regularly referenced in my house in threat form.

"If you don't take better care of your clothes, I'm going to drive down the street and buy you some REAMS jeans to wear to school tomorrow."

I would describe REAMS jeans for you, but you already accurately pictured them when you read the words "REAMS jeans."

The point is, they were not flattering on any human body.

You guys might think I'm joking about this grocery store selling jeans. I'm not. I just looked it up. REAMS has a website. On the "About Reams Food Stores" page it boasts: "We are now the largest western wear dealer in Utah," selling such "non-foods" as "boots, western, casual and work-wear."


Eventually I moved away from my parents' home. I grew up and changed. My parents changed. You changed. Everyone changed. Except for REAMS. REAMS stayed exactly the same.

The same linoleum floors.

The same selection of movie rentals.

The same jeans.

Last weekend I decided to can spaghetti sauce, but to my absolute frustration, I suddenly couldn't find my canning supplies when I needed them on Saturday night at 10:00. Skylar and I ripped the house apart looking for them, but they were nowhere to be found. So I called my mother to ask her what I should do.

"You'll have to go to REAMS," she told me.


"REAMS. They have the best canning supplies."

A sore immediately formed at the end of my tongue as I inexplicably started smelling dust.

I hadn't heard the word "REAMS" in nearly 20 years.

"Is that even still around?"

I googled it and discovered there was a REAMS only a couple miles from my house, so the next morning I drove to it at 9:00 AM.

I walked inside and passed the jeans. Tim McGraw's "Don't Take The Girl" was vibrating from above. An elderly woman who had handwritten her shopping list on a long roll of receipt paper was maneuvering her Jazzy through the sliced bread aisle. A man wearing a black cowboy hat was fishing through a bin of $1 Christian DVDs.

I found my canning supplies and took them to the one checkout that was open.

A child was sucking on one of the rubber dividers used to separate groceries on the conveyor belt the employee was moving with her hands. The child's mother turned and saw this, telling him to stop, and then gesturing toward me, "so that man can use it." Not "because that's disgusting" or "because that thing is covered in diseases" or "because people need to touch that."

Just, "so that man can use it."

I paid for my canning supplies and thanked the employee, who was wearing a badge that said "Marge: 35 years of service."

I took my things and drove home, canning, calling my mother to ask for tips and advice for my struggling domesticity, and unconsciously humming the melody to Deana Carter's "Did I Shave My Legs For This."

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I have such mixed feelings about jaw breakers. My brothers and sister and I wanted to get them and suck on them until our mouths bled like all the other kids but my mom considered them a huge choking hazard (looking back I have no idea why as it was very unlikely that we would ever be able to penetrate all those layers and get them small enough to choke on) She would let us buy them and then she would put them in a big plastic baggie and take them in the garage and hit them with a hammer until they were basically candy dust and then we would lick what we could out of the bag.
    She also threaded our life saver candies through dental floss and have us suck on them that way. Her reasoning was that if we choked on them she could pull them back up 🙄. It’s a marvel that most of us turned out half way normal!

  2. See - if you lived in Michigan you'd have this same experience only you'd be able to go 24 hours a day - it's call Meijer.

    1. Meijer is the best! Any time I visit Michigan, I plan a trip to meijer because it's a destination in itself. I love that place.

    2. yeah, Meijer is good for food and misc goods, but the clothing is a mix of horrendous and "wow, I actually like that".

  3. Even though all Reams really do look like part of the Stranger Things set, they're pretty good. The Reams on 7200 south has The Best apple selection in Utah. And usually other good treasures. I once found two ugly Christmas sweaters that perfectly fit the stuffed frogs I needed to hide in my brother's house. Reams always has what you need.

    1. Ok, wait. HEY. You can't just drop a sentence like "I once found two ugly Christmas sweaters that perfectly fit the stuffed frogs I needed to hide in my brother's house" without giving more information, CAROLYN. Please come back, and give us the deets on that!!!

    2. :) kind of a long story, but I'm sure I can make it longer. When I packed up my childhood and moved to college, I didn't know what to do with a rice-stuffed frog I had made with extra fabric in my high school sewing class. I did the most logical thing I could think of and hid it on my brother's bedroom shelf, knowing that he, a teenage boy, would never even notice it. A few months later my mom and little siblings stopped by my dorm room for a quick visit one afternoon. A few days after that, I noticed the frog sitting behind some books on my shelf. Since then (21 years so far), my brother and I have been hiding the frogs (we added a second to the mix several years ago) in each other's houses. Those frogs have traveled the country more than I have, have made it past security in some interesting work places, and now they even travel with luggage that they've accumulated over the years. (christmas sweaters, Halloween costumes, toys, etc). The frogs are currently in my possession, so if anybody has suggestions for the next handoff, I'm all ears.

    3. Carolyn, the story is perfect. And awesome. THANK YOU.

      Have you ever put them under the covers of his bed? On the back of a toilet? Somehow managed to get them into the trunk of his car when he wasn't looking?

    4. I love this SO MUCH. Thank you for sharing!!! Last Christmas my sibs and I did gag gifts. 17yo brother gave me 3 ugly beanie babies (pink turtles named “Shuffler”, if you want to look them up). He bought them because they creep him out. So I started sending him photos occasionally. Then on his birthday, I tied strings to them and made them do a birthday dance marionette style. I also recorded a video of them singing happy birthday around a cupcake. You’ve just given me the best idea to take this to the next level (insert evil villain cackling and mustache twirling)

    5. Yes,yes! Hide them where they'll scare him the most! With the frogs, they've ended up in pillow cases, kitchen canisters, cars, cupboards, work places... you name it. The best is when one of us manages to get them across the country and into personal space with no explanation.

  4. I'm on the border of West Valley City and Magna (WVC side, just to be clear though) and REAMS is just a block away (Magna side). Roger's Bakery is a must. They have donuts to eat, the size of those ones you sit on when you hurt your butt. #truth

    1. I went to that Reams growing up. Some observations about it.

      1. Roger's was always used as a motivator for the youthssss "If you come to this activity, if no one fails this test, I'm getting everyone ROGER'S."
      2. The drinking fountain in this one was always so dirty and a little scary. But somehow had the best drinking water?
      3. There's no public restroom. Only the employee restroom. Which was in the back. No restroom? No problem! Saith my mom. She took us to the employee restroom, through the stockroom. And I swear the employee restroom was green. But now years later the stockroom has a door that says "Employees Only." Coincidence? I thought it was weird she took us back there, but never questioned it.
      4. I'm confident this store shrunk in size over the years.

    2. OMG I literally almost included in this post the fact that we always used the employee restroom. Did everyone do that?

    3. Everyone's mom is on the same wavelength it seems. I'm pleased as punch my mom wasn't the only one.

  5. We love our Reams in Springville. It has great produce, bakery, drive through pharmacy, etc. They have done a good job keeping the store well kept and modern. I have very fond memories of going to Reams with my Grandmother in American Fork when I was little. She'd always buy us a donut at the bakery. Our Reams makes their own donuts and also has half priced donuts every evening around 6 or 7 p.m. So, my Reams donut love is still going strong. No jeans at this location, though. You have to go to Provo for the jeans store. ;)

  6. Our reams was in an old indoor ice skating rink so it was a cement dome with no windows. Also the mascot is a Scottish man in a kilt for some reason?

  7. The Iowa City equivalent was called Paul's. I loved that place. They actually had good jeans, though. But you could get cowboy boots, jeans, tools, dog food, gardening supplies, candy, and Carhartt everything. All to the smell of grease and the sound of country music. They recently closed and I am very sad, even though I haven't lived in IC for 15 years.

  8. Tragically, the Sandy location closed recently.

  9. The best and only Reams I remember is the turtle reams. RIP

  10. this so reminded me of my childhood grocery store, Poca Foodfair. 30 years later, even though my parents have moved away from “Poca”, they still make multiple trips a month to this store cause “only they will have it”. it looks exactly as it did when i was growing up. & even if for some odd reason they are out & about & go to a different Foodfair, they still call it “Poca Foodfair”. guess you can never really escape your childhood grocery store.

  11. The PNW equivalent is called Costco and they have taken over the world.