Truth be told, I didn't plan on writing a blog post today. I intended only to add another comment to a long list of comments following Amber Woods’ article titled “Would Havre de Grace Support a Nontraditional Grocery Store.”
The words spoken by our neighbors speak loudly. The closing of Save-A-Lot left a gaping void in this town and, at the same time, pointed to the possibility of another type of grocery shopping experience in HdG … in the future.
Bill wrote: “So we may need to scratch the "cheap" grocery store from our list of replacement requirements.”
Rolando (referring to a co-op) said: “Havre de Grace has the perfect character for this type of business.” I happen to agree.
Eddie added: “Keep it simple and affordable year round.” And, he’s right.
Curtis: “ … more people seem interested in talking about grocery stores than politics ...” An accurate remark and one that’s quite interesting considering the lively tone of our town’s most recent election.
Pam: “I don't know if anyone has looked at the demographics of this town lately, but one does not retire here without some money in their pocket.”
Some years back, I participated in a Frederick, MD food co-op named The Common Market. At the time, there were three tiers of pricing in the store. Membership, or ownership in the co-op, was an option for those who wanted to buy into the program to receive great prices on products that were difficult to find in a single location elsewhere. Members could volunteer to work in the store as an alternative to laying out cash. Anyone could shop in the store as a non-member and simply pay a higher price for merchandise purchased.
At the time, the store occupied a decrepit little space in a strip shopping center. Kids with dreadlocks and tie-died shirts used to work there. The store has since moved and has morphed into a gourmet shop with bright lights suspended from high ceilings, an expensive cheese selection, and a customer service kiosk.
Today, it would be hard to tell the difference between The Common Market and a Wholefoods in an upscale urban setting. I bring this up because I liked the store much better when it was smaller, had more personality, and was more affordable. I also believe that a HdG food co-op, to be successful, would need to balance itself between the two extreme and contradictory polarities.
Let’s face facts, Trader Joe’s isn’t likely to come to HdG and the new Wegmans is located too far off for most of us to shop there routinely. A year-round, sustainable, and affordable source of wholesome food products in this town would most likely be born of local initiative. Food co-ops seem to foster a real sense of connection and concern among like minded people. It’s exactly the type of forward reaching, community-based concept that would be embraced by the people of HdG. It's exactly the type of popular and sensible shopping experience that would bring people into town since there isn't anything like it nearby.
This post is intended only to keep this important discussion in the forefront. If there’s enough real interest, we should plan a meeting to sit and talk about the possibilities.
What do you think?