Neighbors for Neighbors

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Where will the Latino and Caribbean JP residents who counted on Hi-Lo as an institution for 47 years get the items they need that can't be easily found in Boston?

Rather than debate what organic food store should move in, I'd really like us to explore how to continue to provide the culturally appropriate ingredients that have been vital for many JP residents. Will some local entrepreneur step up to fill in this gap? Can we pressure the new store to carry these items at reasonable prices?

The wonderful diversity of JP is at stake here as this change continues to move us towards two JPs - one that can afford to get in a car and go to multiple shops in and beyond JP to get our organic produce, etc. and one that had a great local spot for ingredients that are difficult to find elsewhere.

We don't have to accept this change without an organized response. We have a history of standing together, JP residents stopped a HIGHWAY from destroying our community in 60s and it's now Southwest Corridor Park. As Margaret Mead so eloquently stated, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."




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Comment by Rira on February 15, 2011 at 4:10pm
youth, everyone - THIS is the golden opportunity to create something  - hi lo is gone , the doors are closed - they're retiring and  have moved on - but 100's of people could come together and open their own market, create exactly what they want - offer the products they want, treat workers the way they would want to be treated- it's all there, just waiting for a strong leader to step up and inspire everyone to create a new better "hi lo" but with a new name of course - call it " Mercado de las Americas" or something like that!  I'd love to shop there!


Put all that energy and all those words into real action - create a new market - find an empty space, stock the shelves, hire all the hi lo workers, create a vibrant cultural space, and best of all - in today's spirit of improving educational opportunities especially in the inner city - show today's youth that negatives are really positives behind a thin curtain - teach at risk teens to imagine the possibilities of thinking creatively , optimistically and productively.   Such a market if it comes to be from the hard work of so many will be a brilliant example to our youth of how the future can be such a wonderful thing fore them and THEIR children if people think creatively , work hard, and have the confidence to say to themselves - they can make their world better by harnessing resources to make something out of nothing.


I hope someone reads this to the bottom and at the very least gives the idea thought and just for a moment pauses and thinks   ' what if ? "
Comment by Rira on February 15, 2011 at 4:08pm

On the other hand, if Hi Lo wanted to retire after 50 years - why not?  Why do people object so much to the hi lo closing.  They spent 50 years in business, they must be in the 90's - how much longer can someone work?  They wanted to retire and whole foods wanted to take the spot.  I'm sure hi lo offered the spot to others, but whole foods felt they had the best product line that will answer the needs of the local shoppers. 


On the other hand - I think for the 100's of people who feel strongly that there will be a void left by the hi lo closing - that then opens up a wonderful opportunity for the latin community to open a new market somewhere in the 2 mile area.  There must be affordable vacant space around town.  It would be a fantastic way to bring everyone together to create a positive from what so many see as a negative.  So many said "organize" and every one clapped - so the energy is there.  A few high energy leaders could take all that energy in the room and organize a team to create a new market that picks up where the Hi Lo is leaving off.  Re- hire all the workers, re-stock shelves with all the products that people will miss - ADD an educational component that educate people Michelle Obama style about making good choices for healthier foods, .  People lamented the loss of culture - the new market, could offer prepared foods and have a mini food court with seating that would create a gathering place, village like cultural venue - win win win win all around - so many opportunities, just waiting to be taken full advantage of.  The area politicians, business people, community organizers, area youth, everyone - THIS is the golden opportunity to create something  - hi lo is gone , the doors are closed - they're retiring and  have moved on - but 100's of people could come together and open their own market, create exactly what they want - offer the products they want, treat workers the way they would want to

Comment by Rira on February 15, 2011 at 4:08pm

It would have been great to have this letter available for last week's meeting.  I think Whole Foods will be a pleasant surprise for many people.  I attended the meeting last week and was not sure why whole foods is the bad guy or for that matter why Knapp is the good guy - firing all those people who gave 30 and 40 years of service and then booted, no severance, nothing, nada - but yet everyone seemed to want Knapp to stay around even tho they treated their staff like dirt.  Knapp did not seem to care that their high sugar content, high starch foods are a direct cause of poor health in the Latin community and they made zero effort to educate the community about healthy choices - as Michelle Obama says so often - 'make good choices' well Knapp enabled people to make bad choices, really bad choices.  If they were such a great part of the community why didn;t they make any effort to show they cared by taking better care of their workers and by making the least effort to educate 1,000's of people about better nutrition.  They could have had information tables with affordable good tasting ethnic food samples and recipes  that were not high sugar, high starch, but healthy AND affordable.  They did not Hi lo did not care about the health of the latin community, they just cared about squeezing every nickel they could.  I think Whole Foods will care about the latin community AND the workers - their reputation internationally proves it AND they give 5% of their profits back to the local community.  I never saw "hi lo" givieng back 5 pennies to the Hyde Square community.  Did they?  If they did, I'd love to hear about it.


On the other hand, if Hi Lo wanted to retire after 50 years - why not?  Why do people object so much to the hi lo closing.  They spent 50 years in business, they must be in the 90's - how much longer can someone work?  They wanted to retire and whole foods wanted to take the spot.  I'm sure hi lo offered the spot

Comment by Todd on February 8, 2011 at 9:38am

Hi Phoebe,


Why should WF be held to a higher standard than Hi Lo or Stop and Shop?

Comment by Phoebe Sinclair on February 7, 2011 at 6:03pm

Hi.  Everywhere I go in JP, folks seem to be discussing this!  I believe I understand both sides of the issue.  I think it's important that Whole Foods understand what they're coming in to and work with the neighborhood.  I haven't made it out to any community meetings about this but I wonder -has anyone asked WF directly what they will/can offer?  One very concrete gesture WF could make would be to add an extra room that can be used by the community for meetings, events, birthday parties, etc.  Another would be to pledge to do work in the community (staff volunteer days) or help fund community events, even underwrite the nearby community gardens!  The Riverside neighborhood of Cambridge had an experience similar to JP's.  Might be helpful to make contact with someone there to learn how they handled WF's arrival.


Thanks for reading!  -Phoebe

Comment by Scott on January 23, 2011 at 12:47pm
I agree with Dax about Hi-Lo not being a very clean store. Although I am not Latino, I live very close to Hi-Lo and really wanted to like it when I moved in to the neighborhood.  I was hoping it would become part of my regular shopping rotation, but after giving it several chances and finding it to be dirty on every trip (not to mention the fact that the produce always looked like it had been sitting around for 3 days) I finally gave up on the place.  When I'm at a food place (store or restaurant) I expect them to maintain a certain level of cleanliness.  Every Whole Foods I have ever been to has done an excellent job of keeping the store clean.  I for one am very happy to welcome WF to the neighborhood. 
Comment by Pat Roberts on January 21, 2011 at 5:13pm

Jennie, quite a few of the businesses in JP are not family-run and local, starting with Hi-Lo, whose owners are in Newton.  Harvest Coop is not a local or family-run business, and neither is Stop & Shop.  And I'm sure you realize that Dunkin Donuts, Tedeschi's, Citizens Bank and Bank of America are also not local and family-run, though they have all been in JP for a long time. 

Also, any business that wants to succeed will sell products that people want to buy, so undoubtedly Whole Foods will sell products in this JP store that people in the JP community want to buy.  They will also undoubtedly continue to sell local products whenever possible, just as they do in their other stores.

Comment by Jennie P on January 19, 2011 at 4:33pm
Well, Hi-Lo is not going to stay, it's already been sold and apparently the owners got a good deal, which is great for them. But I stand with anyone and everyone who feels that Whole Foods is not the ideal establishment for our community, which is rooted in its diverse culture, local, family-runl establishments, local food, and open dialogue and involvement. I think we need to put up a fight here. Or at least a major challenge to Whole Foods to become something in our community that really does serve everyone. And I have my doubts that Whole Foods could ever do that.
Comment by Robbie Samuels on January 18, 2011 at 2:24pm
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 10:49am
Crystal Fruit, Freddy's, Meatland, Evelyn's,...  Since Hi Lo is busy and selling these items, it seems likely that either WF, or local markets will pick up the slack in selling these profitable items.  Why would a company come in to that space and intentionally not sell items that were selling well under the previous owner?  That assumes a lack of biz savvy on WF's part.

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