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Whole Foods official announces it's opening a store in Jamaica Plain

Neighbors,

According to the Boston Globe, it's official, Whole Foods announced toda that it plans to open a store in Jamaica Plain in the building currently occupied by Hi-Lo. Here are some quotes from the Globe Article:
“Whole Foods Market has been keenly interested in developing a Jamaica Plain location. We are now eager to become active members of such a strong, diverse neighborhood and to open a store that is reflective of the vibrant community,” Laura Derba, Whole Foods Market North Atlantic regional president, said in a statement.
"In keeping with the company’s mission, Whole Foods Market plans to source a wide variety of products that meet its strict quality standards as well as the diverse needs of their shoppers"

More info available on JP Patch

 

LETS DISCUSS: What are your thoughts about this?

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Comment by Billy Brittingham on January 22, 2011 at 1:43pm

I'm a new add to the N4N conversation.  Attracted by this conversation about WF and Hi-Lo.  I'm a 20+ year JP resident and I've spent the last 10 years in Hyde Square.  I apologize in advance for the length of my post.

I share people's concerns about the loss of Hi-Lo.  My concerns focus primarily on the employees and the community's loss of an important gathering place.  Personally, I think the products will ultimately be available elsewhere (e.g. smaller stores in the neighborhood, Stop & Shop, etc., if not also to a degree in WF).  And I don't share the doom and gloom about the changing demographics.  JP's history has been a history of changing demographics and so it goes.....  


I was moved to post here because I find the vilification of WF a bit frustrating, unproductive and misleading.  No business is perfect; certainly I'm not going to suggest that WF is perfect.  But the company IS doing a lot of things right -- and they are leading other corporations in the right direction -- as it relates to:

  • Having a purpose that is MUCH bigger than profits
  • Understanding stakeholders w/in a systems perspective
  • Creating a corporate culture that empowers and supports employees
  • Focusing and leading on issues of sustainable food production & sourcing (including a commitment and practice of working w/ local vendors -- something that I'm confident will only increase)
  • Structuring compensation sanely
  • Transparently communicating to stakeholders
  • Supporting economically under-privileged entrepreneurs around the globe (and in the US!) through the work of the Foundation 
  • Annually giving over 5% of NET profits to communities (a figure that puts almost all corporations to shame)  

Because some on this forum are predisposed to doubt supporters of business, let me be clear.  I am not a shill for this or any other corporation. In my professional life I have helped to organize boycotts of transnational corporations (working with INFACT, now Corporate Accountability International); I have worked w/in corporations.  Currently I am the Director of Executive Education & Professional Development for the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, where I oversee the delivery of 40+ trainings a year designed to bolster the corporate citizenship management capacity of Fortune 1000 companies.  I have not worked directly with or for WF.  I am an occasional customer and an intrigued -- but distanced -- observer of the company's management practices.


What I have learned in working against, for and with corporations is that change is needed and change is happening.  John Mackey --the remaining co-founder of WF and co-CEO -- is a visionary leader who is helping to usher in positive change.  He is complex and imperfect (as we all are); and so is his business.  But, in my opinion,  WF is not the demon that some are making it out to be.  To the contrary, it is a company that should be applauded and encouraged -- even while it is pushed to keep on stretching for new and better ways to support, feed, stock and supply communities.  

I understand people's concerns about chains vs. small, locally owned stores.  I share them to an extent.  But the very thing that many people dislike -- the size and scale of a company like WF -- may ultimately be a source of value to JP that would otherwise not be available, particularly if the community actively and positively engages with the company to identify and work to remedy community issues, needs and concerns.

This conversation is great.  I hope it continues.  I hope that people will take the conversation up directly with WF management -- and I hope that they will do it constructively.  In the meantime, I would urge critics of WF to watch this interview w/ John Mackey:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KeaR0G-DxU.  It's long (41 minutes) but it's fascinating.  And don't cheat yourself out of the last five minutes when Mackey talks about trust in business -- particularly minute 38 when he talks about the importance of "love and care" as critical elements of building trust.  

WF aspires to be a transparent, authentic and trusted company.  Let's make sure the walk that talk as they enter the JP community.


Comment by Amy BB on January 22, 2011 at 12:00pm

I'm wholeheartedly on the Maura bandwagon.

I honestly don't have strong feelings about Whole Foods vs Trader Joes or whoever else was bandied about as seemingly better than WF.  I'm thankful that it is one retail space in Hyde Square that won't sit empty as too many spaces are recently.  

 

I've listed them before: the new construction at Creighton and Centre, another across from Mozart Park, the yet unfinished construction at the corner of Lamartine and Centre.  These are the new retail that have little or no tenants right now.  The existing retail space that remains empty? Veloria left, Pupusa left (but now there will be yet another pizza joint), I just saw that Moneshan's (sp?) hair salon vacated, Junebug left, Milky Way and Bella Luna left.  The hair salon (I can't remember the name) that became a boutique right at the circle is empty, Fat Ram is moving to a bigger space steps away but who knows how long it will take to fill that empty retail.  

 

The space next to Alex's Chimis has sat unloved for a long time, but there is an owner prepping for construction as I type this and it will certainly maintain the JP Diversity Quotient that is so beloved by all of us: The Lucy Parsons Center (http://lucyparsons.org/).

 

So in some respects, WF may be a good thing. It may generate entrepreneurial peeps to open more stores with the plethora of empty retail we are sitting on.  If we can have civil discussions with those who are in charge of stocking the WF shelves, perhaps we can convince them to stock most if not all of the items that will be lost when HiLo does close.  I don't know what those items are, so I can't lend much to that part of the conversation.

Comment by Daniel Verinder on January 22, 2011 at 10:42am

Update, there IS a WF-specific meeting, posted on N4N:

 

http://jamaicaplain.neighborsforneighbors.org/profiles/blogs/a-spec...

Comment by Daniel Verinder on January 22, 2011 at 10:39am

I am impressed with the level of thought going into all of this! Rep Jeffrey Sanchez, Councillor Matt O'Malley, Mayor Menino, and JPNC seem to be taking the issue up. I haven't seen any WF-specific meetings, but JPNC is meeting on February 3 at Farnsworth House (90 South St) at 7pm: http://www.jpnc.org/

Also, there is a "State of Our Neighborhood" scheduled for Feb 15 at 6pm at the English High School cafeteria (144 McBride). Sanchez will be there, and I bet other reps will be, too.

 

 

 

I've seen a few comments from people I know and like on here, and while I do not completely agree with them, I do respect them. I hope I have not lost their respect. (Shout out to Ben for calling for reason/civility/understanding and to Dax for recommending we form a bulk buying cooperative. For folks interested, there is a group that meets in JP/Roslindale and distributes at the Brewery. Contact me and I can pass on their contact info. 522-6135. Or maybe we can talk about forming a new club.)

 

Thank you, Pat, for filling in the history of Bread and Circus and for providing links. You're right, it looks like the couple bought the first store from someone else in 1975.

 

While some are concerned about the tone of some comments, I'd like to direct you to the comments here:

http://news.bostonherald.com/business/general/view.bg?articleid=131...

 

There are a lot of hurtful screeds being lobbed around over there, many of them racist and classist. By comparison, these N4N conversations are decidedly more civil and constructive.

 

Speaking of news, both big papers have called for WF to re-hire the Hi-Lo workers. I'd recommend this be the main (but by no means the only) issue addressed in any talks:

 

http://news.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/editorials/view/20110122h...

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/arti...

 

 

Comment by Pat Roberts on January 21, 2011 at 5:20pm

Andrew, if you are concerned about the possibility of increased traffic when Whole Foods moves into the Hi-Lo space, then probably wanting them to host a farmer's market in their parking lot is not the most useful thing to advocate for, since it would take away parking spaces, and might also generate even more traffic.  Have you asked the Stop & Shop people if they would host such a market?  Their parking lot is much bigger than the Hi-Lo parking lot, so presumably would have a smaller impact on traffic.

Also, the Hi-Lo building is small for a supermarket, so it might be hard for Whole Foods to give up space for a community room.(Did Hi-Lo have a community room for the use of JP residents?)  But, again, the Stop & Shop store by Jackson Square seems a lot bigger.  Have you asked them to create a community room for the JP community? 

Comment by Breton Hornblower on January 21, 2011 at 4:01pm
Comment by Sarah on January 20, 2011 at 8:36pm
Joseph-I know of it but haven't been there! I actually live pretty far from Hyde Square so I don't get over there for lunch much. I'll seek it out though. I just want one right on Green Street, or the Brewery would be nice, or Washington St.!
Comment by Joseph Porcelli (Chief Neighbor) on January 20, 2011 at 7:33pm
@Sarah, do you know about Tacos El Charro on Centre across from Mozart?
Comment by Sarah on January 20, 2011 at 7:25pm
Dax--so funny, I can't even remember the mural! I love the visuals that Cityfeed has brought to that corner. Now if we could just get a really taqueria nearby...
Comment by Su Cousineau on January 20, 2011 at 6:38pm

Wasn't that first store on Beacon called "Erwon" or something?  I remember it...

So many interesting conversations going.  Though wondering: has anyone heard of any initiative brewing for a open public meeting w/ representatives of WF and any interested JP residents?  Perhaps by JPNDC or CityLife/Vida Urbana?  I would think WF would want good relations w/ the JP community - and clearly there are lots of varying feelings and concerns on all sides.  For instance, is WF making any moves to hire Hi-Lo employees?  (I'm not sure if entirely accurate but I read at one point they were given 3 weeks notice and that's it - this seem brutal esp in this economy & for long time employees)  Will it preserve the mural which is part of JP history? And what about concerns for affordability and product service to large Hispanic community and others?

Please post if you learn of any JP organization requesting a public meeting w/ WF.  And I'm seeing what I can find out too. Thanks.

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