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An Open Letter from Whole Foods to Jamaica Plain / Carta Abierta de Whole Foods a Los Residentes de Jamaica Plain

The Texas-based organic foods retailer responds in writing to several community concerns. / La cadena de supermercados que reemplazará Hi-Lo Foods mandó una carta a la comunidad.

[Editor's note: This is a letter from Laura Derba, president of the North Atlantic Region for Whole Foods Market, which plans to open in the space formerly occupied by in Hyde Square.]

Dear Residents of Jamaica Plain,

 We are very pleased to be opening a Whole Foods Market on Centre Street. We have met with city officials and followed the media coverage so we understand that while many of you are excited that we’re coming to JP, there are also a number of concerns and questions. As the regional president of Whole Foods Market, I want to take this opportunity to have what will be the first of many communications that I hope will serve to clarify several issues and ease your concerns.

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:  When we learned that the aging ownership at Knapp Foods was closing Hi-Lo Foods and making the lease available, we jumped at the chance to be a part of such a diverse, neighborhood with a passion for great food. Prior to signing the lease, however, the news was leaked to the media, along with a lot of false information.  We were enormously disappointed that you were not informed in a more respectful and organized manner.  Ideally, we would have had the opportunity to communicate with city and neighborhood officials prior to our announcement, as is our standard policy. 

 Our design plans will begin when we gain access to the building in late March. While the interior requires extensive renovations, we have absolutely no plans to change the structure of the building or the exterior features that are so important to the community -– the mural, the awning and the clock – will all remain intact.

 HI-LO STAFF:  We understand and appreciate your concerns for the future of Hi-Lo’s staff. We have already hired several Hi-Lo employees in our stores, and we are working with the local unemployment office to make sure that the remaining employees know that Whole Foods Market is guaranteeing them priority interviews at any of our store locations and facilities. 

 NEW HIRING:  Once renovations are underway and we have an opening date set, we will be holding job screenings at the store location that will be open to the public, as is our standard practice. We plan to hire around 100 Team Members---approximately 70 percent of those positions will be full-time with benefits.

 PRODUCT OFFERINGS:  We believe that everyone has the right to have access to affordable, high quality, clean food free of artificial ingredients and additives. This includes carrying a wide variety of Latino products. As with all of our stores, we will carry products that cater to the diverse demands of the community. If shoppers express interest in a product and it meets our quality standards, we will carry it.

YOUR COMMUNITY MARKET:  Being a community partner is a responsibility we take very seriously. We are eager to show our support and commitment to the wonderful organizations that make up the fabric of the JP neighborhood. As a company we give 5 percent back to our local communities through non-profit organizations and community and education groups.

 When we solidify our plan for the store, we will host community meetings to answer all of your questions. Please know that our intentions are to be productive and positive members of the JP community and to provide you with high quality food and exceptional customer service at great value. We understand that we will only be able to prove our commitment to you with our actions.

Sincerely,

Laura Derba

President – North Atlantic Region

Whole Foods Market

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Estimados Residentes de Jamaica Plain,

Nos complace informar que próximamente abriremos una tienda de Whole Foods Market en Centre Street. Nos hemos reunido con los funcionarios de gobierno de la ciudad y hemos estado al pendiente de la cobertura informativa en los medios de comunicación, por lo que sabemos que aunque muchos de ustedes están emocionados por la próxima apertura de nuestra tienda en Jamaica Plain, también existen muchas dudas e inquietudes. Como presidenta regional de Whole Foods Market, quiero aprovechar esta oportunidad para enviarles lo que será el primero de muchos comunicados que espero sirvan para aclarar sus dudas e inquietudes.

ESTO ES LO QUE PASÓ: Cuando nos enteramos de que los propietarios de Knapp Foods pensaban cerrar Hi-Lo Foods y que el edificio quedaría desocupado, decidimos aprovechar la oportunidad de formar parte de un vecindario tan diverso y apasionado por la buena comida. Sin embargo, antes de firmar el contrato de arrendamiento, los medios de comunicación tuvieron conocimiento de la noticia y esto generó mucha información falsa. Nos sentimos enormemente decepcionados de que ustedes no hayan recibido esta información de una manera más respetuosa y organizada. Idealmente nos hubiera gustado tener la oportunidad de dialogar con los funcionarios de gobierno de la ciudad y los representantes de la comunidad antes de dar a conocer esta noticia, de acuerdo con nuestras políticas estándar.

Comenzaremos con nuestros planes de diseño tan pronto como tengamos acceso al edificio a finales de marzo. Aunque el interior del edificio requiere de una renovación extensa, no tenemos planes de cambiar la estructura del edificio ni las características exteriores que son tan importantes para la comunidad; el mural, el toldo y el reloj permanecerán intactos.

EMPLEADOS DE HI-LO: Comprendemos y apreciamos su preocupación por el futuro de los empleados de Hi-Lo. Ya hemos contratado a varios empleados de Hi-Lo en nuestras tiendas y estamos trabajando junto con la oficina de desempleo local para informar a los demás empleados que Whole Foods Market les garantiza una entrevista de trabajo prioritaria en cualquiera de nuestras tiendas e instalaciones.

NUEVAS CONTRATACIONES: Una vez que hayamos comenzado con las renovaciones y tengamos una fecha de apertura definida, llevaremos a cabo entrevistas de trabajo en la tienda que estará abierta al público, esto de acuerdo con nuestras prácticas estándar. Nuestra intención es contratar a cerca de 100 Miembros del Equipo y aproximadamente un 70% de estos puestos serán de tiempo completo y con beneficios.

OFERTA DE PRODUCTOS: Creemos que todas las personas tienen el derecho de disfrutar de alimentos económicos y de alta calidad, sin aditivos e ingredientes artificiales. Esto incluye una amplia variedad de productos latinos. Al igual que en el resto de nuestras tiendas, ofreceremos productos que satisfagan las diversas necesidades de la comunidad. Si nuestros clientes expresan su interés por algún producto específico y dicho producto cumple con nuestros estándares de calidad, lo ofreceremos en nuestras tiendas.

NUESTRO APOYO A LA COMUNIDAD: Nos tomamos muy en serio la responsabilidad de ser un buen socio comunitario. Deseamos demostrar nuestro apoyo y compromiso con las maravillosas organizaciones que conforman la estructura de la comunidad de Jamaica Plain. Nuestra compañía tiene la política de devolver un 5% a las comunidades locales a través de las organizaciones altruistas y los grupos educativos y comunitarios.

Cuando concretemos nuestros planes para la tienda, realizaremos reuniones comunitarias para responder a todas sus preguntas. Tenemos la intención de ser un miembro productivo y positivo de la comunidad de Jamaica Plain y queremos ofrecer a todos los residentes alimentos de alta calidad a un valor excepcional, además de un excelente servicio al cliente. Sabemos que únicamente podremos demostrarles nuestro compromiso a través de nuestras acciones.

Atentamente,

Laura Derba

Presidenta, Región del Norte del Atlántico

Whole Foods Market

Boz February 17, 2011 at 02:05 PM
I agree with Gretchen. JP's activist tradition is the reason we have the Orange Line and Southwest Corridor Park rather than I-93 in that spot. In short, it's the reason JP exists as a neighborhood at all. I value the diversity, the progressive atmosphere, and the artistic presence in JP. jpinvestor is just as guilty of making Whole Foods into a symbol of something it's not as the opponents are. Whole Foods is not the death of Jamaica Plain. Nor is it the death of progressivism. It's a freaking grocery store, people. Everybody needs to get a grip.
Raphael February 17, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Speaking as a Whole Foods-coming-to-JP supporter, I don't think jpinvestor's left vs. right, capitalist vs. communist theory is even close to accurate. The fact is, Whole Foods is seeing support because it will address a real need in the neighborhood in ways that Knapp Foods never did -- otherwise, Knapp would've been profitable and would've stayed. Whole Foods in many ways represents the mainstreaming and the triumph of 60s values and pressure on "the man". The company offers terrific benefits, sells socially and environmentally responsible foods and products, and yet still thrives as a for-profit chain. Talk about the best of both worlds. And again, it seems to me that Whole Foods is coming because JP has been gentrified, not as a catalyst to gentrification. They don't locate stores hoping a neighborhood will be attractive to their bottom line 5 years from now. They want immediate profitability. Lastly, let me just say that for all those folks who (bravely?) invested in homes in JP 20-30-40 years ago, aren't they entitled to a nice payoff in the form of higher property values now that they've made a beautiful neighborhood all the nicer and more desirable? Artificially tamping down property values by closing the door on Whole Foods ignores the substantial mega-corporate presence already on Centre Street and offends the legacy of everyone who worked hard to make the neighborhood great -- yes, with 60s-era values.
Eric February 18, 2011 at 04:08 PM
JPNC will be having another Whole Foods community meeting at the Kennedy School, 7 Bolster Street, February 28th at 7pm. I was out of town for the last meeting, but I'll be there to discuss how I support effectively ensuring affordable housing and economic and social diversity in JP and how I also shop at Whole Foods. I hope Felix Arroyo is there again. As opposed to Matt O'Malley or Jeffrey Sanchez, he doesn't seem to want to take the time to respond to my emails. Perhaps he's confused about whether or not I am one of his constituents? I know he's busy, so I somewhat get it. It's kind of hard to be both a city councilor and a real estate agent for America's Food Basket and Brothers Supermarket.
Dougie M February 19, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Beneath all of the emotions it seems like everyone really wants the same thing: a grocery store that provides healthy and affordable food that all JP cultures feel comfortable shopping at. Can we move on from the us vs them and come together to figure out a solution that works for everyone (it is clear that not everyone is in agreement about WF)? I'm sure there are local/regional grocery stores out there who would jump at the opportunity to move into the Hi-Lo space (the store was not publicly for sale) that would provide organic and healthy products as well as similar products that Hi-Lo carried.
Scotch March 08, 2011 at 02:18 PM
....installing yet another mistimed traffic light to further jam Centre I'm sure will be the "solution" . So many love the city because you can do everything on foot or with public transportation. Then we all get in our cars and drive anyways.....

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