Esse-a-Go-Go: The Celebrity Kroger Story

In my town, it has a special name. It is not just the grocery story. It is not simply Kroger’s Food and Drug.  It is….drumroll, please……Celebrity Kroger of Ashton Place.  (You can check into it on Facebook by that name, so you know it’s real.)

I learned of the true name of this community hub when I moved back to Charleston, West Virginia, a decade ago. This is my home town, and I pride myself on being in the know. I realized in short order I was about as far out of the know as you can get my first weekend home.  I wanted to go out for a beer, and it never crossed my mind to go downtown.  I ended up in a strip mall where I saw a bartender open a Corona and then attempt to put the top back on and put it back in the cooler. I hadn’t gotten the news that my little town was all grown up. I laugh now picturing myself in that yucky dive when I could have been downtown at one of many lovely new hangouts that had blossomed since my departure.

Among the swanky new places to see and be seen was, apparently, the grocery story. I learned quickly that there was only one grocery in Charleston where you could see Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, the governor, Rockefellers, members of the legislature, coal barons’ wives and kids, school supers and fashion models.

Aside: If you really want to have some fun, dab on some Giorgio Beverly Hills cologne, do a chignon with your hair, wear high heels and fake fur and sport some Jackie O sunglasses from Target. Speed through Kroger like you are late for a Botox and watch the heads turn. This would not get a second glance in any major city (OK, you’d get called out for the stinky cologne), but you can cause a riot in Celebrity Kroger because YOU MIGHT BE SOMEONE.

In reality, there is only one SOMEONE I ever wanted to see at Celebrity Kroger of Ashton Place.  His name is Mr. Lamanca.

At this point, I would appreciate if you would play the following video as soundtrack softy in the background for the remainder of my story.

For a full 10 years at least, Mr. Lamanca was like Keyser Söze  to me, only cooler. I could not be in Kroger’s without someone coming on the intercom and paging, “Mr. Lamanca, Mr. Lamanca….please call line 2.” The name sounds great on the intercom, and it’s so clear that the man is Lord God King of Celebrity Kroger. Part of his glory is that he seems invisible. He rules all, yet from afar. No one else ever is mentioned on the intercom.

Who was this “Mr. Lamanca”? Was he real, or a hoax? Where was he, and how did he so effortlessly command the mothership from an undisclosed location?

Then one day, it happened.

I was walking through some aisle, I can’t remember which, when I looked up and there he was.

Joe Lamanca, third from left.

I just thought I would be asking a regular store employee how to find an item, and when I looked up I saw a name tag with the name, “Mr. Lamanca.”

I think I forgot how to breathe.

He said, “Hi, can I help you?”

I couldn’t speak. I kept staring from his shirt to his face and back again. I must have looked like an crazy person. He asked if he could help me again, this time with a little look of concern.

“I am so sorry,” I gasped. “It’s just that, you’re….do you know who you are? You’re….(I whispered it) Mr. Lamanca.”

He laughed, “Yes, yes I am.”

“I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’m sorry if I’m freaking you out, you are just such a mystery, and this is really exciting. I am so happy to meet you! I love your store!” There was more, but I think you get the idea. I did everything except propose. It was hilarious, and I still hardly can believe it happened.

So all y’all who consider yourself all that and a bag of King Size Ruffles, Mr. Lamanca just took you to school. He IS Joe Quixote, the LORD of Lamanca, and though I’ve seen a few “celebrities” at Kroger over the  years, they pale in comparison.

Next goal: Find a way to be allowed to page him over the intercom. Just once.

Do you think that’s too much? 😉

26 thoughts on “Esse-a-Go-Go: The Celebrity Kroger Story

  1. Hilarious!!! Great post! I LOVE Celebrity Kroger’s. It’s like entering a fantasy land. Loved your idea about dressing up complete with Jackie O glasses. I might have to try that one.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! Our every day lives are so full of stories and characters. They are all around us, all the time.

      For the record, I caught a huge whiff of Giorgio Beverly Hills downtown in the middle of the day last week. The “wearer” was clad in sweat pants and dirty sneakers. I hadn’t smelled that God-awful stuff for 30 years. Apparently, it no longer has quite the cache it once did, and to that I say OUTSTANDING.

  2. Great post Elizabeth, I can’t go to Celebrity Krogers because I don’t look nearly good enough to be seen there. I go to Ghetto Kroger’s instead on Delaware Avenue. May not be able to get everything you want, but at least no one cares that you smell like a wet dog, have dirty hair, and baggy blue jeans on!

    • Hopefully, the ironic nature of the word “celebrity” matched with Kroger is sufficient to tell you that you should bring your baggy self on over! LOL

      My husband has been known to wear LL Bean bedroom slippers to “celebrity” environments. I love him.

  3. I was hoping this post would be about Keith. You know: Keith, the Celebrity Kroger cashier (who went MIA about a year ago). I really miss Keith. But, even without mention of Keith, this was thoroughly enjoyable!

    • Keith! Keith is great. I started to worry when he shaved the beard. Then as you say he went MIA, but then I saw him again in the store but he was not working, just visiting.

      I’m worried about him. I agree, Keith is one of a kind. Maybe Mr. Lamanca can tell us where he is.

  4. I think I saw Keith working last week. Unless of course I was only hoping it was him and had tricked my mind into thinking it was him. What a kind soul he is.

  5. I loved this so much! When I come to town, I usually go to ghetto Kroger’s where Aunt Bibby and I log in about 10 minutes per aisle. Next time I come home, you and I will go to Celebrity. I’ll be the star; you’ll be my assistant, just because I’m the grown-up. The sunglasses and black coat are already in my repertoire.

  6. Great post. I love Mr. Lamanca. He used to be the manager of blue collar Kroger. He always took care of the store. When he left for celebrity/ white collar Kroger, blue collar Kroger became ghetto Kroger. I had to change stores with him.

  7. I’m proud to say that is my Krogér as well. I usually sport Ray-Bans but always felt the same way about Mr. Lamanca. It was like there was a secret room somewhere.

  8. Glad you like my Facebook check in page I created (I had created several before but FB kept deleting them). Us East Enders have been calling it Celebrity Krogers for almost a decade now mostly because we have “grocery store withdrawl syndrome” and they would never build us a Trader Joes or Whole Foods down here because the 314’s wouldn’t allow it!
    Love your blog!

  9. And who is Keyser Söze or what is it?
    Is chignon a chewing gum? And is the g silent? Is that French or the Chig language of Upper Volta? It means “no speak” in Chig.

    • KS is the central figure in the film The Usual Suspects.

      A chignon (French pronunciation: [ʃiɲɔ̃], English pronunciation: /ʃɪnˈjɒn/) is a popular type of hairstyle. The word “chignon” comes from the French phrase “chignon du cou,” which means nape of the neck. Chignons are generally achieved by pinning the hair into a knot at the nape of the neck or at the back of the head, but there are many different variations of the style. They are frequently worn for special occasions, like weddings and formal dances, but the basic chignon is also worn for everyday casual wear. [1]

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