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Placebook: My Friend Joe, the Trader

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Thanks to a meeting (more on that later) I swung by the Winston-Salem Trader Joe’s and stock up. Lately there has been much debate about the store, in both the local(including today’s cover story by the News and Record) and national press.  People don’t understand the appeal or what their logic is for store placement.

Well, for me what I like about the store is that it is small. Just like its corporate cousin Aldi, it only has exactly what you need. Secondly, it is affordable luxury. Third, even though prices may be a bit more, they have a better commitment to healthy foods and customer service. I’ve seen other stores start modeling stock and service after them, such that the mild sticker shock, as well as the introduction of new products doesn’t feel as weird.

The last thing I like (and what I think others should like too), is that they don’t have everything. And because they don’t have everything, that creates a balanced marketplace. This is where the gentrification critics get it wrong. Maybe in the old days, where the store was a full service operation and maybe for people who have adjusted their diet to the offerings of the store, would the store be the only place to shop and a threat to incomes and a draw of people with a higher tax base.

The retail problem that the critics cite is more of a symptom of the greater housing problems(and also the school and transit problems that those create) that have amassed for years. Worth a read, if you just skim over everything else today, is friend of the blog Daniel Hertz’s The Atlantic Cities article on gentrification and also the Ta-Nehesi Coates The Atlantic article he quotes on the ghetto as public policy. It illustrates how the creation of “desirable neighborhoods” and the classic restrictions on race have created an environment where the lack of or the presence of a retail outlet can send a neighborhood in a tailspin. If we had a market where all neighborhoods (stock wise) are equal and retailers saw the presence of housing units as a measure of success, then we would not have the retail issues we would have. Relative expense is also not a factor either, as many of the corner stores that still service what we consider food deserts, charge high prices for old fruit and other basic non-perishables.

Nevertheless, we need to start chipping away again at housing and education policy if we want retail to follow suit and be a better citizen. And now a few more links:

News from North Carolina

So you can peruse them on your own, here are the public records of all the exchanges between the City of Greensboro and the International Civil Rights Center and  Museum.

The Guilford County Commissioners questioned added expenses to school repair costs at their meeting last night.

Forsyth County Commissioners will consider new rules on cell towers in established neighborhoods at their meeting on Monday night. The public hearing on the issue starts at 6 p.m.

The City of Winston-Salem has scheduled two gun buyback events for March 15 and April 12.

The average unemployment benefit for North Carolinians has fallen by 15.8%.

The State DMV has been sued over the voter id requirement, citing problems for people with disabilities. Also ,the state computer system for public schools is having issues.

RDU Airport’s Terminal 1 reopening has been delayed due to the winter weather. The terminal will open sometime in early March.

News and Lessons from Elsewhere

Why we are at “Peak Walmart.”

Where exactly does the east side of Los Angeles begin?

When parking tickets force you to put a name and a definition on your romantic relationship.

Trees are moving as temperature zones move.

A primer on “lean urbanism.

Why many freeways, despite efforts to get rid of them, are here to stay.

And finally, the Project for Public Spaces presents, “What Makes a Successful Place?”

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