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Placebook: Neighborhood Stores Can Be and Should Be Our Friends

So as I welcome more of the white stuff, my thoughts have drifted to what it means to have a decent neighborhood store. I’ve written on this topic before. What I wanted to address is the idea that it does matter who owns the store, because of the character of the business and the commitment to the neighborhood. Even before the snow rush had me thankful that CVS sells cranberry grape juice and Stoffers Mac and Cheese, I have been following and posting links here in Placebook about the recent decisions of Trader Joes to locate in Greensboro and the neighborhood fight that’s ensued and not locate in a once predominately- African-American neighborhood in Portland.

Both decisions represent a high NIMBYism and they both illustrate that the phenomenon knows no color, income level or true neighborhood desire. I’m a firm believer in the power of neighborhood groups, but when they become less and less about providing for the greater good and advancement and instead the preservation of a small vocal few, then I’m concerned.

I’m also concerned on a more personal level. First of all, for the Greensboro store, yes, I do wish they’d pick another spot. However, the store itself is a major force and niche missing in our community. There are many of us who have expensive taste, but tiny budgets. Trader Joes has successfully allowed those of modest means to have great food. Also, despite the recent controversy on whether the store would provide health insurance or make employees go on the Federal Exchange, Trader Joes employees are paid a living wage and they are encouraged to work as a team and trained on all aspects of store management. This results in better customer service because the workers care and know the whole store and how it can help you.

Secondly, as you can probably tell already, I’m African-American. I’ve seen worse come out of new stores in underserved neighborhoods and I’m not deep in but close to a group who is trying to start a store in their neighborhood, that may gentrify it. We go wrong when we racialize fresh and unique food, awesome customer service and a clean store experience.

Yes, certain foods and dishes often originate from certain areas. But, it doesn’t mean we can’t try them and eat them. The trouble comes when we one, make fun or use them to disparage others and two, when we take them, change them up, then try to claim they are still what they are. It’s like calling hot orange juice, hot coco. They are both hot, both may use some of the same recipe, but they aren’t the same.

At the end of the day, the problem is larger than not having a grocery store or one that’s affordable or accepts food stamps(as Trader Joes does nationwide). The problem comes again with our economy and the fact that it’s left so many behind and allowed resentments to build, instead of the healing that comes with greater civil rights.

And with that, more news for today:

NC Roundup

Snow’s a comin’.  Well, more of it is coming. Yesterday, 1-95 was shut down and today Amtrak’s also cancelled all service after this morning’s trains. Numerous schools and other organizations are shut down too. Yes, there have been reports that shelves are empty of milk and bread .

Meet Durham County’s new county manager.

Norfolk Southern’s plans to grow its railyard at Charlotte Douglass Airport.

New uptown apartments in Charlotte.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools plans to install cameras in classrooms, meanwhile, Guilford County Schools is suing the state to protest the new tenure laws.

Some residents of public housing have managed to escape poverty, and still remain in public housing.

US and World Roundup

More on the issues around the Portland Trader Joes pullout.

An Atlanta area federal prison is finding success in more humane treatment of mentally ill inmates.

How brain drain benefits African countries.

Where runners run in major cities worldwide.

In and out migration in Ohio’s cities, tracked by Telestrian, The Urbanophile’s census aggregating software.

Could these new sprinklers help Beijing with its smog problem?

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