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Martin's: The Casting Call

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Who are real Richmonders? Hint: They don't shop at Ukrop's anymore.

“Martin's [Food Markets] Is Looking for ‘Real Richmonders' to Appear in Their New Commercials,” proclaims an e-mail casting call the Weinstein Jewish Community Center distributed last week.

Martin's, the Royal Ahold-operated chain of grocery stores, has been shutting down former Ukrop's locations this month for Dutch-style makeovers.

It's also hustling for community cred: “Be In A Commercial, Receive Free Groceries and Raise Funds for the Weinstein JCC!” hypes the casting notice. “We're looking for all ethnicities, all aged adults, and a few children ages 4-10.”

But it's mostly kids that swarm through a cramped JCC meeting room — the holding pen for hopefuls — at the audition April 14. A temporary gray partition wall is all that separates these pint-sized real Richmonders from a panel of four judges, a smattering of grocery-store items and a neon-green Martin's plastic grocery basket — props to cull the wheat from the chaff.

On this side of the wall, it's an unassuming crowd. Only one boy is spotted toting a glossy headshot.

“If you want regular, this is it,” says Andrea Nachman, 42, who likes that she and her children in tow, Benny, 10, and Eliana, 7, didn't have to dress up for the audition.

Nachman sits on the floor with a few other moms; together, they consider the transition from Ukrop's to Martin's. For Nachman, a native Richmonder, the audition is “a nice introduction to Martin's to see what they're about.”

“I'm hopeful, but I'm a little bit nervous,” says Randi Taggart, 44, auditioning alone because her teenage kids don't make the age cutoff.

 “I grew up in D.C. and I know Giant,” Taggart says. “And they're awful.”

 But Taggart comes to audition in part, she says, because she wants to show Martin's that “we're coming out to welcome them.”

“I did hear that they're community-minded, and that's important to me,” she says.

Taggart auditions with the neon-green basket. Afterward she takes stock.

“We had to pretend like we were shopping and we ran into our neighbor,” she says. “It was quick.”

“Did you have White House rolls?” teases her friend Lynn Burris, whose daughter Leah, 10, also auditioned.

“I had clam chowder,” Taggart says. “And I said, ‘This is not kosher.'”

The commercials are scheduled to be filmed next week.

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