Toward the end it proved that tragedy and comedy are but a matter of perception. The roof, long neglected and prone to leaks in rainy weather, gave way after an ice storm and forced a temporary closure. A hasty repair job resulted in fewer leaks but in new locations; every rainstorm thereafter brought gentle and localized showers in the water aisle — comedy. But soon enough those shelves became emptier as the final closing date approached. And as more shelf space was exposed, those showers sounded louder and more hollow in the sparsely populated store — and here was tragedy. Wild Oats was once fifteen people deep at every register during lunch; the community room bustled day and night with diners, classes, the Sunday-night Wash. U. crowd; now only the rains came, and with them, the competition a bit farther down Brentwood. But would the latter have ever looked at St. Louis if Wild Oats hadn't been here first? Wild Oats proved that a different kind of grocery store could work here, amid the fierce loyalty to Schnucks and Dierbergs. Now all of them carry organic produce and natural health products and soy milk. But once there was only Wild Oats — until the deluge washed it away.
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