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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 Su Cousineau on January 15, 2011 at 11:34am
I really appreciate the conversation going beyond WF vs TJ (which doesn’t even seem to be an option) – or cheap vs. more upscale, etc.  This news literally brought tears to my eyes and, as I read in the Patch article, tears to many others’.  This is an issue of heart, community, food access, gentrification and economics… not just a matter of what would be cheap or supposedly convenient.  This affects, I’d imagine, the soul of much of the Latin community who have built and sustained Jamaica Plain as a vibrant, diverse and desirable community for many generations. Access to food central to culture and tradition is a significant key to what creates and sustains community. Access to community arenas, which reflect local culture of real people, families and groups, also is key in maintaining connectedness in neighborhoods.  The entrance of something like Whole Foods also drastically affects economics of property and rental space – and who can afford what.  This is all part of the gentrification process… where the very communities who invested families, lives, money, businesses for generations are pushed out of access precisely because of the value that has been created.

 

I am not Latina but a JP-er of over 20 years – part of the queer community, a JP small business owner, former director of JP children’s art program of 6 years, holistic practitioner of 12 years here in JP and a long time Hi Lo’s customer. I’m really concerned about what is happening here.  Of course Hi Lo’s has the option to sell.  Though I’m curious to learn more if this is a decision of local managers or a parent company. But regardless of Hi Lo’s decision, I feel it is important for JP-ers to participate in the negotiation of what happens to this space for the good of the entire community, esp the community that has so long been served by Hi Lo’s.  And there is of course the issue of communities losing access to affordable food which also reflects their cultural needs. Which is not to say “cheap” is the factor here.  Such large business transactions deeply affect and shape community for a long time.  I really appreciate issues City Feed has raised in regards to regional food access, true costs of food and others in regard to gentrification. Also, as Robbie S. has mentioned, I am eager to learn what City Life/Vida Urbana and JPNDC are planning.  And I want to echo w/ others, that this message board in itself (while very appreciated!) is certainly only part of the voice of JP. Thank you to JPN4N in making it available. 

Comment by Torie Reed on January 15, 2011 at 10:50am
Is this open for debate, or is it a done deal? I would be opposed to any big chain store moving into JP, regardless of what it sells. What I like about the businesses that are here is that they serve (and respond to) the neighborhood and its needs.
Comment by City Feed and Supply on January 15, 2011 at 9:17am

Call it irony or call it fate, but at the same time that the news alerts started coming in about WF coming to JP, I happened to be preparing for a panel discussion tomorrow at the Northeast Organic Farmers Association in Worcester.  www.nofa.org  One of my co-panelists happens to be the North Atlantic regional produce coordinator for WF.  The question we are being asked to discuss is:  What are the barriers to evolving a regional food system?  What follows are my prep notes for the panel discussion.  I hope this contributes to the discussion below.  Sincerely, David Warner, co-founder and co-owner of City Feed, and your neighbor.  

City Feed, was founded in 2000 with the simple idea that we would sell food folks would actually want to eat on a regular basis, in a convenient location.  It was and is inspired by the community in which we live.  It is a reflection of that community, and as a result, we put developing positive community relationships at the forefront of what we do.  For us, working with local and regional food producers is a natural outgrowth of that mission.  Before we opened, one of the first things we did was contact Stillmans Farm in New Braintree and work out a way to purchase from them.  That involved investing in their CSA and meeting them at the local Farmers Market to pick our orders. 

 

Since then, we have grown into two stores in the same neighborhood and we now work with over 120 growers and artisan food producers in the region. 

 

As I see it, the barriers to evolving a more robust, truly local food economy, are those that have evolved over the course of the last 50 or so years.  In that time, we latched whole hog onto the idea that bigger is better -- the notion of economies of scale and the idea that we can keep more food more affordable for more folks by evolving into a system where the flow of that food happens on a national and global scale and is dictated by companies who operate on that scale.  In this system, which has evolved to accommodate large-scale production and distribution, it is very difficult to rapidly re-adapt to accommodate small-scale production and regional distribution.  Costs are higher when you operate on a smaller scale, but the vast majority of folks perceive a higher cost of food not as a positive sign that they are supporting their own local and regional economy and thus helping to keep their neighbor employed and their open land preserved but as a threat to their hard-earned income. 

On the upside, I see signs everywhere that folks are becoming more thoughtful about these issues and the internet is allowing for the flow of more information and discussion at a more rapid pace, which will hopefully help us to evolve our global food economy into one that can more readily accommodate small-scale production and distribution and not just have it be relegated to the “specialty” channel. 

 

In my view, a sustainable regional food system, is part and parcel of a sustainable regional economy in which it is possible for every person, at every step of the way, to make a fair wage, live a decent life and eat nutritious food.  Be they the field workers, the farmers, the truck drivers, the porters, the shopkeeps, the cashiers or the buyers and eaters.  The doctor, the lawyer or the CEO.  The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.  In order for that to happen, we will have to be able to develop robust systems for small-scale production, small-scale distribution and small-scale outlets.   At the same time, there will need to be an evolution in our thinking about our notions of value and whether cheap food is worth the price we end up paying for it.  Every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of neighborhood, city, country and world we want to live in.  Please consider the candidates as thoroughly as you are able and vote for the world as you would like it to be for yourselves and your posterity.  

 

Comment by Robbie Samuels on January 15, 2011 at 1:17am

I can't believe people are debating Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe's and not seeing that this would be detrimental to many residents, particularly the Latino and Caribbean community in the Latin Quarter. And why do we need a big chain in JP to sell organic food? We already have member-owned Harvest (don't like their service? pressure them to step it up instead of driving to TJs in Cambridge), 2 locally-owned City Feeds, Stop & Shop and TWO farmer's markets. This is what gentrification looks like and I wonder what City Life/Vida Urbana and JPNDC are doing about this. I hope we can support their efforts.

It's time to organize. Even if WF moves in (TJs isn't even an option so is it part of this debate??) they should definitely be pressured to provide reasonably priced items similar to what was found in the Hi-Lo so the Latino community isn't left to fend for themselves.

We live in a diverse neighborhood and that's part of what makes it so great. Perhaps this message board doesn't represent the demographics of the neighborhood but I hope we can find a way to work together so ALL of our community benefits.

Comment by Mitchell Lunsford on January 14, 2011 at 10:49pm
Why does it have to be either? Love to see a local entrepreneur do something original like an outdoor market or a grocery with both organic and Latin foods?  Maybe City Feed wants to expand with local offerings. Just saying...
Comment by Stephanie Golas on January 14, 2011 at 10:30pm

Wow- I am definitely conflicted about this one.  I too enjoy Whole Foods, but really don't want it here in JP.  The loss of Hi-Lo is a serious blow for our community.  They offer specific items that cannot be found elsewhere and truly serve a large segment of our community.  The answer is certainly not Whole Foods.  Their presence would severely undercut local JP businesses like Harvest and City Feed.  There are significant overlaps between Whole Foods and our local businesses.  If people are running into Whole Foods for some things many are not also going to take the extra time to get their few special items at Harvest if they are readily available at Whole Foods too.  Harvest is the business that most suffers from this proposed arrangement.

I see this as a perfect opportunity for Harvest to jump right in and open up a bigger more awesome store in the Hi-Lo space!  We keep a local, community minded business AND we get wider offerings like Harvest provides in their Central Square location.  They certainly are not any more expensive than Whole Foods.

 

If in the end we are talking WF or Trader Joes, I vote TJ's as they would certainly change the vibe of JP (and I am not sure if I love the idea), but they can definitely co-exist with our other JP establishments with the least amount of harm to our local businesses.

Comment by Eric on January 14, 2011 at 7:30pm
There isn't a Bank of America in JP? There are two BoA's in JP. Trader Joe's doesn't seem to be in the picture so I'm confused why there would be an X vs. Y discussion. Regardless, Hi-Lo decided that it wanted to cash out...can't blame them for it just as much as I couldn't blame Triple D's.
Comment by Karin B. on January 14, 2011 at 7:27pm

I will really miss Hi Lo. I like to go there to buy my favorite Mexican and Peruvian foods. Hopefully Stop and Shop will expand offerings at their JP store for some of these kinds of products.

I would have preferred TJ's. I shop at the one in Brookline regularly. Whole Foods is good but I only go occasionally since it is so expensive. Anyway we already have the Harvest Coop and City Feed for the kind of stuff Whole Foods sells... Oh well. WF does have the best roasted chickens!

 

Bye bye Hi Lo- I'll miss you!

Comment by Quinn on January 14, 2011 at 7:23pm
I wish it was TJ's too, but I'm psyched that there will be a grocery store that is (hopefully) tolerable in the neighborhood. Gentrification or not, I want to buy groceries in a store that isn't dirty and poorly staffed (I'm looking at you, Stop and Shop and Harvest), and I don't want to drive all the way to Dedham in order to do it. I hope Whole Foods can create some needed jobs for our community and provide a beating heart for a section of town that was in a precarious spot after the Milky Way got booted out of there.
Comment by Anna Sandoval on January 14, 2011 at 7:12pm

I think this is tragic for the Latino community. Hi-Lo has provided many of us with staple foods that we cannot find elsewhere and that are important to our sense of identity. One of the reasons why many people talk about liking JP is because of the "diversity" and for me an anchor of this diversity is the ability to find the main ingredients to put together a traditional Central American meal without having to go all the way to Chelsea to find the ingredients. Hi-Lo is part of what makes the community diverse and interesting - the loss of an anchor where a variety of food can be found is a loss that the Latino community will feel deeply.

The move of a high end establishment such as Whole Foods will undoubtedly provide many food options for other new and well established populations, but not to the Latino and Caribbean community  who until now have served as the anchor of the "Latin quarter." I worry that Whole Foods will not carry any of the foods that allowed me personally to make a home so far away from my own roots or if they do it will be so out of my own price range and the price range of the lower income population.

This is of course part of a process of gentrification. I wonder where are the voices of those who have opposed the entry of Dominoes Pizza and Starbucks into the neighborhood. A good conversation about the long term consequences of bringing in a high end retailer into the Latin Quarter needs to happen. I just hope it's one that takes into account the fact that there are forces of class, race, gentrification, and urban changes taking place and that these changes will undoubtedly have negative (as well as positive) consequences for the lives of members of the community.

If this is true, I will grieve the loss of my source of comfort food.

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