This evening I invited David Warner from City Feed and Supply to join me for a coversation about the economics their business. I was inspired to do so after seeing many statements by members about "how pricey" City Feed is in the dialogue concurrently happening about Whole Foods coming to Jamaica Plain.
My intentions, having had many conversations with David about this in the past, is to share what I've learned about what it takes to operate their business, and secondly, propose that we take into account the community benefits when considering individual costs of the purchase we make at local business like City Feed. For highlights see below the video.
I hope it's not too late to jump in on this thread, because I've been thinking a lot about role of City Feed in the JP community since the Whole Foods news broke.
Let me acknowledge up front that I'm a big fan of City Feed. But I'm also not inextricably wedded to the mantras of buy local, buy indie, etc. For example, I'm an avid reader and buy tons of books. I'm happy to shop at Amazon or Borders if they have what I'm interested in.
Indeed, I'm sure I'll do some shopping at Whole Foods when it opens. But City Feed will continue to get a ton of my business, and here's why:
1. Maybe it's just me, but I associate supermarket shopping with stress, aggravation, and hassle, with endless rows of products, impatient customers, and long lines at the register. So when we talk about value, to me it includes being able to go to a neighborhood store -- for me, usually the CF on Boylston -- and buy food and goods at a friendly place that reminds me why I moved to JP. When I go to the Centre St store, I try to time it for quick lunch, which is always delicious and a relaxing break in the day. Even if Whole Foods has a cafe section, it won't be anywhere near the same experience.
2. Have you ever heard of a book by Ray Oldenburg titled "The Great Good Place"? It's about places in the community -- like small stores -- that also serve as impromptu meeting and gathering places. That's one of the vital roles that City Feed plays in JP, and Whole Foods and other large entities simply cannot fill that service to the community.
3. It's nice to shop at a food store where you can have faith that the items were chosen carefully and with an eye towards quality and community sustainability. I make no claim of gastronomic purity -- I can be found dining at the Golden Arches on occasion -- but when I buy at City Feed, I know it's good stuff.
Just my three cents.
Buying Local is not charity, it is supporting what you value!
City Feed and Supply is not a full service market.
We view ourselves as supplemental shopping with specialty items and produce.
But want folks to be able to come in and be able to buy items for a whole meal or two, not just condiments, etc.
We do have some amazing New England Farmstead cheeses, Local Grass Fed meats, and even some local caught frozen seafood.
We don’t expect people to do their full shop here. Although, being a young “larger” market (first location was 1000 square feet – new location 3000 square feet just opened 2 years ago) we are hoping to build on our grocery sales, finessing our inventory, systems, and building that part of the business more. Our goal is to be a showcase of New England grown and produced foods, and a point of pride for J.P.
We never want people to feel like shopping at our store is charity.
We want people to see the value in shopping at our store: for the experience & ambiance, for the convenience, for connecting with neighbors, for the local and fair trade products we sell, the sustainable practices we keep and the local organizations we support. A store that contributes to everything that makes J.P. unique.
If these are things you value, we need your support. Support can mean committing to shopping groceries every week, a sandwich twice a week (or more!) or just a cup of coffee. Any amount of support helps. If you are seeing something we should be doing or doing better us e-mail us!
We respond to every e-mail we get and actively try and improve and implement any feedback we receive: email@example.com
Remember Kennedy Butter & Eggs? I used to always walk by and think how cool it was that we had that store in J.P., but I actually never went in... and then it was gone.... and I wished I would have put my money where my thoughts and values were.
With a national large scale player coming to town, we need folks to think local first.
We are not asking for charity, we are asking for a shift in spending to local businesses whenever possible & while you may not be able to afford to do ALL your shopping at City Feed or other small local independants, a small conscious shift in your spending habit can help keep a local J.P. store you love alive and kick'n.
We appreciate everyone’s support and do our best to be competitive and remain in the game. We want to keep being a part of the J.P. community, be one of the reason’s it is so unique and not just any where in America, but The Jamaica Plain, we all know and love.
Make every dollar you spend a vote for the kind of place you want to live in!
If interested, The Sustainable Business Network of Boston has a BUY LOCAL campaign that shows you how to make a shift in your spending to local businesses. Visit 10% SHIFT to sign the pledge, find Shifters in JP, read reports & try the Local Calculator.
Thanks Joseph & all for this discussion and comments
Kristine @ City Feed
Thanks for doing this video Joseph....and thanks to David for being so transparent. I appreciate the openness and true desire to serve the community. I am grateful for you all at City Feed for walking-your-talk & holding true to your values.
@ Eric ("I like this. Can you do another interview with the people who own Stony Brook Wine and Spirits? I want to know why their beer is so pricey.") - I don't want to go completely off topic, but in my opinion, the beer is expensive because the family that owns the liquor store doesn't give a rat's tail about JP. The family owns many other properties and businesses in JP, which I make a point not to patronize. Initially I got a weird vibe at them (not realizing they were all owned by the same family), but the day I was in one business and heard one of the owners say to another customer who was there, "If I want to open up a f-ing McDonald's in JP, no one's going to stop me" I decided never to come back.
I don't want to turn this into a bashing session, but I thought I'd pass that on. The owner's comment has been eating away at me for several years now.
Thank you for looking further into this Joe. Thank you David for the financial details of City Feed.
I have personally made a commitment to purchase more local goods. I have started buying all of my milk and eggs from City Feed, which are from NE farmers. I spend roughly $5-10 extra per month to do that for a single person. I value the importance of local both in stores, farmers, and the reduction of carbon foot print that buying local allows. I agree that $8 is a lot for a sandwich, but we all have to admit its a darn good sandwich and each time we purchase said sandwich we choose to do that for whatever reason. I applaud City Feeds donations and commitment to the local economy.
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