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I just got an alert from JP Patch, that the Jamaica Plain Gazette has reported that Hi-Lo will close and Whole Foods will move in. 

While many like myself appreciate Whole Foods, I know that Hi-Lo has served this community for many years and provided affordable and traditional food products to many of our neighbors. 

I'm excited and concerned - how do you feel about this?

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Comment by Francesca Gordon on January 18, 2011 at 5:44pm

Robbie: I couldn't have put it better.  I've also been shocked/mildly disgusted by the tone of some of the other comments here.  Let's put our money where our months are and support businesses that truly represent/support the diversity of our neighborhood if we truly value that.  This being said, what are our options? Are there any local businesses that would like to move into that space?

Comment by Robbie Samuels on January 18, 2011 at 2:22pm
Writing counter points to arguments that pop up on this board isn't really the point.

For me, it's not about Whole Foods or even about Hi-Lo. It's about gentrification, "the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents" [Merriam-Webster]. This isn't the start of the gentrification process in JP - but this is what it looks like. As a white person who hopes to be accountable to people of color I'm incredibly saddened by the tone from my neighbors on these boards. The community that you live in has a wonderful diversity that is threatened by changes like this. I would hope as a community, regardless of race or class, we'd put our heads together and consider what options are available once the full facts are known in this instance – and work together and educate ourselves about gentrification so we can be sure we’re moving towards a future JP that continues to have space in it for non-white, non-middle class residents.

I realize this post won’t resonate with everyone so I’m really not talking to the folks that believe the market will make this right and we should just wait and see. I’m also not talking to the folks that are concerned with the tone in my and other’s messages – words that suggest we might need to organize and push for an outcome rather than it just being a given that the new store will do right by the community that had previously been served. I’m talking to my fellow neighbors who might really like the idea of a WH or similar grocer because it meets their self-interest (I'm in that demographic), but are concerned about how this might impact the Latino & Caribbean communities. Just consider the larger questions about what kind of neighborhood you want to live in – and if the multi-cultural, multi-class aspect of JP is part of why it’s appealing – consider what you’d be willing to do to ensure that continues to be the JP we live in.

Either way, we’ll know the outcome in the next 10-20 years.

Comment by Erin A. on January 18, 2011 at 10:38am

Having shopped at the Hi Lo myself I can say there were plenty of things there that were not a deal, not affordable and often the store stocked expired produce at premium prices.  Lord knows I will miss the HiLo though because it was way cool, and I am sure whoever replaces it will not be stocking bull testicles and pig ears the way they do now.  But since the store was always busy, it would seem likely the owners have simply decided they want out, rather than being forced out. Though no Hi Lo will be sad, I am guessing this will enable places like Meatland, Crystal Fruit, Freddy's and Stop and Shop to pick up the slack.  One door closes and another opens. 


Could not be happier to hear about Whole Foods coming into the neighborhood.  The Harvest is at the other end of JP and also routinely sells expired produce (ditto City Feed).  It is about time JP got a decent BIG grocery store.  I shop Whole Foods and Star frequently and 2nd what Todd says below, you'd be surprised the prices are often competitive at WF but for better quality items.  As a homeowner in the Hi Lo area, I also look forward to the property value gain this will represent for my home and my neighbors' homes.

Comment by Kendra PeloJoaquin on January 17, 2011 at 10:24pm

This is difficult news. My family has made an effort to spread our money around... we get last minute things at City Feed, most of our food at Harvest, but we make an effort to visit Hi-Lo for beans, rice and sauces to keep that business afloat and continuing to serve the niche market that it does.

I'd love to see Harvest try to pick up the burden of supplying specialty Caribbean and Latin foods, although I know their space is limited.


I have a lot of concerns about Trader Joe's. When we are interested in local or organic food, that means that we need to know where our food is coming from, and I found Trader Joe's foods to be pretty opaque. But, I also wonder why this thread is posed this way... it appears that the deal is done, the owners of the Hi-Lo spent the money. 


In the last few years, I've tempered my own angry attitude toward WF (who has a history of seeking out neighborhoods with a thriving Co-op and then putting it out of business) with the understanding that in a world of huge corporations, they are one of the best especially when it comes to respecting their employees, and responding to the requests of their consumers. That said, I am very nervous for the fate of Harvest in the coming years.

Comment by Todd on January 17, 2011 at 10:33am

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I lived an equal distance from Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Giant Eagle (their Stop and Shop) and did a price comparison and found that overall, for similar items, the prices were roughly equal. TJ's has more house-branded and unusual products. Whole Foods has a more extensive selection of expensive items. Giant Eagle / Stop and Shop have a much broader array of junky items. I encourage you to price compare before blindly judging their prices. If you do a google search, you'll find a number of articles that discuss this.


There are many more.

Comment by Pam Kristan on January 17, 2011 at 8:57am

Oh dear! My heart lifts when I walk into Hi-Lo. The smell puts me right back to Kandler's IGA in Norridge IL where I grew up in the 50's. These places are precious!

As for Whole Foods, I'm with Michael Pollan -- they're no better than Stop & Shop. Stuff brought from much too far away, with questionable ethics and food production practices. Sad, sad, sad. WF would also generate another layer of car traffic. Gack!

Comment by Francesca Gordon on January 15, 2011 at 5:32pm

The closure of Hi-Lo is a huge loss for me as well; I shop there pretty often and will sorely miss it.  It's also a loss for the neighborhood both for those of us who can't afford Whole Foods and because it represents the darker side of gentrification as Su Cousineau metioned in their comment.  Is there anything that we can do to keep Hi-Lo open or is the closing certain? Is there something more community-friendly that could or would want to move in there if its closing is inevitable?

Comment by Rira on January 15, 2011 at 4:52pm
1 more observation .. while I too will miss some of the hi lo benefits such as some low prices, The place was of course filthy but more importantly they had zero in the way of anything remotely healthy.  Just last week, I was looking for 3 fairly routine things, vitamins, whole wheat pasta and hummous .. I asked the manager about them and he said he had 1 case of each a while ago and they never sold!  So 1 benefit for the community will be an educational opportunity for healthier choices.  All of the vendors that everyone is suggesting, City Feed of course as well as Trader Joe's and Whole foods do a wonderful job offering and educating the consumer about healthy options.  hi lo for whatever reason was not interested in providing the educational materials to the community to increase awareness of better nutrition.
Comment by Rira on January 15, 2011 at 4:10pm
Trader joes would be more succesful.  They cover both great quality and great pricing,  JP's mix of income levels could support a TJ, I dont the income is high enough to support a WF - but who knows?
Comment by Pat Roberts on January 15, 2011 at 3:47pm
JP has many chain stores:  Citizens Bank, Bank of America, Dunkin Donuts, Stop & Shop, Tedeschi's Food Stores, etc.  So an argument that a chain store shouldn't move in doesn't make any sense.  I agree that it would be great to have a clean, well-staffed food store (that excludes Harvest, Hi-Lo and Stop & Shop), and one that wasn't killer expensive (sadly, that excludes City Feed). Whole Foods in that location would definitely reduce my expeditions to the Whole Foods in Dedham--I would be delighted.  Also, if Hi-Lo is such an essential part of the JP community, then surely the shoppers thronging there would be generating enough profit for the store to stay open.  Maybe the owners just decided to move on, to retire to Florida or do something else.

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