As further evidence of the increasingly sophisticated face of Rice Village, a “cultured convenience” store has emerged in the form of Mercantile. Much more than simply a coffee shop, as we assumed when it first opened last September, Mercantile is a one-stop shop for kombucha, organic toilet paper, croissants, and other day-to-day household items.

Well, I guess, depending on what sort of house you call home. Mercantile cleverly taps into the aspirational retail market as well as the actually moneyed upper-class by offering a selection of slightly pricy, nicer/organic/free-range versions of food and lifestyle items—you know, all the brands you wish you could buy on a regular basis but don’t.

In keeping with this theme, Mercantile mimics the store design common to high-end clothing and material good retailers via its “less is more,” curated displays of gourmet pasta sauces, gluten-free baking mixes, and locally sourced treats such as Tiny’s Tiny Pies. While at CVS, for example, shelves are overflowing with items, Mercantile puts out two, maybe three copies of these and other wares. Personally, the paucity look doesn’t inspire me to snatch products off the shelves, but I appreciate how this strategy might appeal to the consumer who finds the idea of shopping from a “limited” collection thrilling. 

Of course, it is fun to wander through Mercantile and check out the array of whimsical array of goods (wine sodas!) and imagine the possibilities for a haute picnic lunch or a baller gift basket.  Unless, however, you have the finances to fund such overpriced indulgences, you’ll ultimately hesitate to fill your cart (not that they have them) with “cultured conveniences.”

So, then how do you best enjoy Mercantile without breaking the bank? Choose one or two small prepared comestibles (a pastry, latte, small hunk of cheese, egg salad sandwich, etc.) and enjoy it in-house. One of Mercantile’s greatest (and gratis) assets is the window bar, which looks outward at the hustling and bustling Rice Villagers and ample area of laptops. If gazing at the masses while you sip or nibble is not your idea of fun, there’s also a terrific selection of books and magazine to peruse.

Follow this advice and you’ll be relaxed and fully energized to stop at Walgreen’s.

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