You Can't Hurry Love/Central District/Sun May 14/7:40 pm: Officer Roufs reports: "I was dispatched to a theft call at the Red Apple grocery store on 23rd and South Jackson. I arrived and spoke to the loss prevention officer, who said he observed the suspect walk out the front door without paying for two packages of steak and a beer. The loss prevention officer told the suspect to stop, but the suspect continued out the door without paying for the items. The loss prevention officer grabbed the suspect and pulled him back inside the store. The loss prevention officer said that the suspect had been trespassed from the store on March 18, 2006, by Officer Lawless. I spoke with the suspect and he said he didn't care about the trespass because he was hungry [and thirsty]."
What distinguishes the Red Apple on 23rd and Jackson from most supermarkets in Seattle is the soul and R&B that stream from the speakers embedded in its ceiling. Often what's played comes from the golden age of Motown and Stax—a period of time that, though socially turbulent (the war in Vietnam, civil-rights movement, inner-city race riots), produced music with a kind of optimism that was naive and entirely vanished from the black and pop charts after the '80s. An example of what you might hear (and sing along with) as you walk in the aisles of Red Apple is "Two Can Have a Party," a Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell duet that has a deliriously happy string arrangement—it swells and peaks with the joy of a cloudless midsummer afternoon. Then there's Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness," which starts slow and ponderously but gradually picks up the pace and intensity until it explodes with the impossible happiness of physically holding, embracing, caressing, squeezing the one you love to the end of the world. And which R&B singer today (Usher? Chris Brown? Mario?) could ever offer the reassurance, the support, the encouragement that the Four Tops do in "Reach Out and I'll Be There," a tune, admittedly, that is now forever associated with a major ad campaign for a telecommunications corporation. (The Staple Singers' uplifting "I'll Take You There" was also nearly destroyed by a transportation corporation.)
By the '80s, the optimism that defined Motown's black middle-class values was in sharp decline and steadily being replaced by women soberly warning men that there would be "no romance without finance" (Gwen Guthrie), and men who had "just got paid" and had only one thing on their minds: blowing the entire paycheck on a Friday night (Johnny Kemp). You can hear all of this music (spanning from Kennedy's presidency to Reagan's), as you pack greens into a plastic bag or search for deals on paper towels.
During my last visit to Red Apple, under a speaker that played a slow, gospel-like arrangement—a woman sang about how the rain had gone and the sun had arrived, now that she had found the man of her life—I asked the assistant manager, Robert, for the source of the market's music? "It's from a cable network. The urban adult station." Though not knowing this would have been better than knowing it, the soul music that fills the Red Apple makes it a warm and very special place.