As Jamaica Plain says goodbye to beloved grocery Hi-Lo Foods, many fear that the character of the neighborhood will suffer in its absence. And, sure, it does rub salt in the wound a little bit that a shiny-glossy Whole Foods is going to take its place. Mayor Menino's pledging to help the Hi-Lo workers find new jobs and work with Whole Foods to ensure it reflects the fabric of the diverse, mixed-income community. But that's not enough for many residents, as the Patch reports. Does the coming of Whole Foods augur a charmless, yuppified existence for Jamaica Plainand will it displace residents? More ahead.
According to the Patch report, "more than 250 people" attended a forum held by the JP Neighborhood Council on Tuesday, and only one lonely soul had "anything positive" to say about Whole Foods.
Local activist Betsaida Gutiérrez was particularly outraged, insisting: "We're not going to let anyone come and take our neighborhood away from us!"
Another impassioned resident, Brian Squadrille, lamented that "Whole Foods is going to tear this community apart and sees only dollar signs."
Seeing into the future, another resident feared that "once we have Whole Foods, the next thing is, I'm going to say it...Starbucks."
Other attendees vowed to boycott or picket Whole Foods, saying that its presence would cause property values to spike.
This is an issue that doesn't deserve to be undercut by hyperbole. Inner-city residents need and deserve a place to shop for affordable, quality groceries. This is a problem underscored bybut in no way caused bythe Whole Foods move. Blaming one grocery store for a long-standing problem that afflicts cities nationwide is a reach. The fact that Hi-Lo has operated in JP for decades only complicates the issue; Hi-Lo provided a diverse assortment of well-priced groceries, but it also provides nostalgia. If Whole Foods were simply moving into a vacant building, the debate probably wouldn't be so heated.
For its part, Whole Foods has promised to allow community members to weigh in on the products they would like to see in the Jamaica Plain store.
City to Try to Get Hi-Lo Workers New Employment [Universal Hub]