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Whole Foods Letter to Jamaica Plain: Store to Open in Fall, Managers Hired

In the letter, Whole Foods also says it will be funding a salad bar at the Curley School.

[Editor's note: This is a letter from Laura Derba, North Atlantic regional president of Whole Foods Market.]

Dear Jamaica Plain Residents,

We’re excited to say that we’ve received the keys to , and our renovations are under way. As I promised in my last letter, I want to share with you our latest developments. We’ve received hundreds of calls and emails from people expressing their support and enthusiasm about our upcoming store opening, which we greatly appreciate.

Store Update:

We are currently completing our demolition phase inside the building and finalizing our design plans.  As previously stated, we will not be making any changes to the structure of the building or to exterior features that make the building so unique. However the interior of the building requires extensive work in order to bring it up to code. This process will likely take up to six months, so we anticipate a fall opening date. To stay up to date on the progress, follow us on Twitter at @WFM_JP. We already have over 270 followers!

Perhaps our most exciting update is that we have hired the leadership team for the store.  I’m proud to introduce Mike Walker and Wanda Hernandez as the Store Team Leader and Associate Store Team Leader of the JP store. Mike has been a Whole Foods Market team member since 1994, most recently as the Store Team Leader of our Symphony store. Wanda has been with Whole Foods Market since 2005, most recently as the Associate Store Team Leader in our Wellesley location. Mike and Wanda both have ties to the Jamaica Plain area, and share a great vision for creating a community market that becomes an integral and seamless part of the neighborhood.

Your Community Market:

We’ve been inspired by the great showing of community involvement that we’ve witnessed in the past few months. It is wonderful to be part of a community that cares so deeply about what’s happening in their neighborhood! I’d like to share with you some exciting updates on our community partnerships:

Supporting Local Organizations: Just last month, our Brighton and Symphony stores raised over $8,500 for the during a 5 Percent Day, thanks to the amazing support of the community! We will hold 5 Percent Days to support local nonprofit organizations quarterly.

Healthy Food in Schools: The Boston Latin School will be the first school in the city of Boston to launch their salad bar funded through our Salad Bar Project initiative. From there, we will extend the program to the , where we plan to donate another salad bar to help encourage healthier lunch options through access to fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.

Local Growers and Producers: This summer, we are hoping to host farmers’ markets in our parking lot so that local growers and producers can have a place to sell their food free of charge.  Once we officially open our doors, we will also try to support these local producers and many others by carrying as many local products as we can. 

Town Hall Meeting:

As promised, we will hold our on Thursday, June 2 at the from 7:00 - 8:30 pm. We are looking forward to formally introducing ourselves and our store leadership team, as well as presenting our plans for the store. There will also be a 30 minute Q&A period that will give community members an opportunity to ask questions about the store, as well as making suggestions of ways we can best serve as Jamaica Plain’s neighborhood’s community market.

Product Offerings:

We are looking to you to tell us what products you would like to see in the store. Our buyers are working diligently to stock a wide range of products that meet our strict quality standards. We want to hear from you! We’ve created an email address, JP_Products@wholefoods.com, and we will be handing out self addressed post cards at our Town Hall Meeting so that the JP community can tell us what products you’d like to see on our shelves. 

Hiring:

As we proceed with renovations and get a clearer idea of when we will open, we will begin the hiring process for the store. We will be conducting interviews from a trailer on the store’s property. We plan to hire around 100 team members (approximately 70 full-time, 30 part-time) and hope that many of them will be from the local JP community. More information on becoming a Whole Foods Market team member will be available at the community meeting.

We look forward to the meeting on June 2. We are eager to introduce ourselves and share with you what Whole Foods Market is all about!

 

Kind regards,

Laura Derba

North Atlantic Regional President

Whole Foods Market

Mary Hannon May 18, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Welcome Whole Foods! Thanks Rira, that was a good read! I would love to go out to this meeting on June 2 and support Whole Foods coming to JP, I think the squeaky wheels could find some bodies outside of JP to come and it may look like it's a "big" crowd of anti-WF. I just wish we could have the meeting on another Thursday. JUNE 2 is our "First Thursday" on Centre/South Street which the JP Centre South Main Streets has created as a time for gathering for live entertainment, art openings and other festivities and community building... It runs from 6-8pm. I suppose we could all run down to the Curley at 8:05 and show some support, but I wish that Whole Foods had been informed that First Thursdays took place then, clearly some of the folks in our community who helped facilitate this meeting either are detached to the event or ignored the JP Centre South Main Streets First Thursdays event as one that wasn't worthy of supporting. Speaking of which, our board is in dire need of more members, we've lost several and at this rate this organization as part of the Main Streets Organizations of Boston is heading toward extinction ... if you would like to see improvements on Centre and South that support local business, please consider joining our board. Here's to more opportunity to better our business district, increase our foot and bike traffic and improving our quality of life! Thanks Whole Foods for wanting to come to JP, despite the ridiculous hurdles!
Chris Helms (Editor) May 18, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Hi everyone, I'm glad to see the vigorous conversation, but let's remember we're neighbors. There's no need to call someone an "idiot" because you disagree over a grocery store. Personal attacks like that have already driven away thoughtful commenters from this space. By commenting here, all of us agree to these terms of use: http://jamaicaplain.patch.com/terms Boiled down from the legalese, they translate into "Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”
Rira May 18, 2011 at 04:35 PM
Sorry Chris - and I apoligize to Hannah for going too far, with my words. I do though want some answers to some very fair questions. Everyone does and everyone deserves answers to these fair questions that have been asked for 4 months now - but we get none.
Jamaica Plainer May 18, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Hannah, thank you for your comment. I agree that Whole Foods' letter does not address many or most of the concerns that I've heard raised by my neighbors. I agree that they need to speak to these issues. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.
Chris Helms (Editor) May 18, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Thanks, Rira!
Matt May 18, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Perhaps the reason the letter does not address the concerns you're referring to has nothing to do with Whole Foods and everything to do with your neighbors expectations being out of line. They are a grocery store. They sell eggs and pears and apples and yogurt. They don't fund, build, manage or develop affordable housing.
Matt May 18, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Perhaps the reason the letter does not address the concerns you're referring to has nothing to do with Whole Foods and everything to do with your neighbors expectations being out of line. They are a grocery store. They sell eggs and pears and apples and yogurt. They don't fund, build, manage or develop affordable housing.
Pat Roberts May 18, 2011 at 08:44 PM
I agree, Wocket, that it's not appropriate to expect a grocery store to have anything to do with affordable housing. And, as I said before, we are drowning in affordable housing in the Hyde and Jackson Square area. We need more market-rate, middle class housing, which we are thankfully getting as the months and years go by, thanks to the market, not to a special fund.
Rira May 18, 2011 at 08:54 PM
I love the brilliant point made by the person who said that the businesses and factors that bring DOWN property values should set up a fund to reimburse people for lowering values - fair IS fair - where is Chang Diaz on that point? And where is Chang Diaz on contributing her raise to charity as the other 14 senators did last year? Where is her reply to that very fair question?
Peter May 18, 2011 at 09:06 PM
It might be a good idea to back off on bashing Hannah. I may not agree with her but in her posts I feel a great deal of fear. Perhaps valid, perhaps not. She is writing from the heart and I thank her for that. It's sounds like most people who are commenting are at a place where they feel financially comfortable. Let me tell you what life in Boston was like when we had rent control. Landlords were allowed to raise rents 10% per year. When the move to do away with rent control began to make its way through the various media outlets people began to be afraid. We were told there wouldn't be any drastic changes in rents. We had a large senior population. They were paraticularly vulnerable. Long story short rent control was voted out and with a month or two rents went through the roof. Rents not only double but tripled and upward. Renters paying $500 a month were notified that their rents would now be $1500 per month. They were given 30 days to move out. Seniors have essentially disappeared from JP. It was also true for families. The rent raises continue unabated today. I know a woman who bought a triiple decker. Her renters were paying $750 a month. The day the papers passed she upped the rent to $1800 a month. There is no recourse.
Eric Bezler May 18, 2011 at 09:17 PM
I don't see any Hannah-bashing. I see challenges to a faulty argument. People are certainly entitled to their feelings. She may feel sad. I feel excited. I earned my doctorate, chose to live in JP, and am enjoying the positive changes in an evolving community. Lastly, Whole Foods does not NEED to speak to certain issues. People may WANT Whole foods to discuss affordable housing, but it's not a requirement. The sense of entitlement that has permeated our culture is astounding.
Bob from JP May 18, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Peter.... this is the way a free market economy works. If you own a house, why should you be told what you can charge for rent? If your asking price is too high, you won't get tenants. If its right, then you will. Not to say that there should not be senior housing and subsidized housing for people who truly need it, but rent control is not the way to go. The fact is, there are certain places where certain people cannot afford to live. For example, I'd like to live in Beverly Hills.... should I start petitioning to have rent control in the mansions so I can move there?
Rira May 19, 2011 at 12:49 AM
When a gallon of milk went to $5 a few years back, people flipped out and there congressional hearings to fix the prices since there there was no recourse. Then, "magically" the price came down because dairy farmers produced milk in abundance and flooded the market to make more $, but that flood brought the price back down, (too much supply, lower prices) so it self corrected, that is what markets do- they self correct and that is what we want them to do. The issue with rent here VS other parts of the country is all the red tape makes it impossible to build apartments, so the supply is small. Allow builders to build as they do in other parts of the country and you will see them giving away 2 free months as they outside of Boston. Simple - supply and demand. People here hate developers and make their lives miserable. So they dont build here. They build outside of Boston where it is easier, less expensive and where they can make money doing it. So what is left here is a tiny supply and more people bidding up the prices for that small # of apartments. In a free market people are free to outbid each other. If you allow builders the freedom to build, prices will plummet.
Rira May 19, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Also, things like 'victory gardens' take the land that could be 1,000's of apartments for example. It's a trade off - we ask ourselves where we stand on things like green space, and the shadows caused by tall apartment buildings that gives us more apartments and thus lower rents - and there is your answer - it's very simple. Housing policy that gets us more apartments - more supply - lower rents is very complicated and 5 minute knee jerk reactions will not do waht you want. The law of unintended consequences always prevails and those consequences are dire. The examples of abuse exemplified by a prince from Sweden living in a rent controlled apartment who would have been guilty of a crime for paying than the scheduled rent fill volumes of books. If the subject interests you - check out SPOA - they can tell how rent control destroyed Bosoton Cambridge and Brookline and allowed 1,ooo's of people to buy summer homes who have retired to them. and that is going on to this day in NYC and in several cities in California.
Rira May 19, 2011 at 01:08 AM
You will NEVER here a rent control advocate EVER say they would include an income qualification for a rent controlled proposal. It's not about that. It's about a disdain they have for property owners.
msglincoln May 19, 2011 at 11:40 AM
I to am looking forward to walking to WF instead of driving to Brighton. So glad their plans haven't been derailed. The housing fund idea is just silly. Gentrification has occurred over the last 20 years because JP is a great place to live. WF coming is a symptom, not a cause. It seems to me that the other businesses in the Hyde Square area stand to benefit from their presence, there will be 100 good jobs for JP residents, and access to healthy food for all of us. This is not to say that affordable housing is not an important issue that we should all be working on. I just wish all the energy the Whose Foods folks have put into this could be harnessed and used in a more constructive way.
Peter May 19, 2011 at 05:52 PM
I don't think what I wrote was clear. What I was trying explain is what happened when rent control was repealed. There was genuine and honest fear. I know it's difficult to understand what it means to be poor unless you've been there. I've been there. Years ago I lived in NYC in an SRO hotel (Sleeping Rooms Only). Think about an empty warehouse, into that empty space was built maybe 25 cubicles 4x6 feet. One one end was a shelf with a mattress on a platform going from one end of the cubicle to the other. The ceiling wasn't the warehouse ceiling because that was much higher than the hight of the cubicles. Instead of a ceiling there was chicken wire stretched over all the cubicles. There was a door at the end of each cubicle with a padlock. Evernight I would wake up with roaches and bed bug bites. There were times when there just wasn't any work anywhere. I would go into conveneince stores and stuff a bag of potatoe chips in my shirt. That was my breakfast, lunch and supper. Fortuntely, many changes took place since then. But, I was scared. Could I pay my rent for the next week? I never knew. If the rent wasn't paid on time the door was locked. I'm not advocating welfare entitlements for a long period of time. But, there are times when someone like myself, a vietnam vet dealing with what is now called PTSD. As a matter of fact, I am very much against automatic entitlements. There should be strick requirements for a specific period of time.
Brian L May 20, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Address the reasons why people can't afford the higher rents. Education, education, education. Don't extort Whole Foods.
Peter May 20, 2011 at 04:11 PM
There are many reasons why people can't affort higher rents. You're right that education is one. But, there are also those who are disabled, elderly, mentally ill, those who work two or three jobs just to pay low income housing. Also, those who know how to work the system and stay on Section 8 housing for generation after generation. The Landlords who have Section 8 housing tenants are doing very well. Also, those on welfare and who are perfectly healthy and should be working but know how to work the system and stay on Welfare for many years.
Peter May 20, 2011 at 04:14 PM
I wasn't advocating rent control. I was only explaining what happened when rent control was repealed. However, since you brought it up capitalism, free market economy can work very well but it can show how greed can take over peoples lives. I prefer to live in a democracy.
Bob from JP May 20, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Peter, the way we treat our veterans in this country is a national disgrace. If the pols and liberal activists expended half as much time taking care of our veterans as they do taking care of lazy welfare abusers who demand handouts from the rest of us, we would be in much better shape. I would love to see an actual audit of who is on welfare and in subsidized housing and who SHOULD be on welfare and in subsidized housing. The system is broken..... having additional children should not be incentivized. PROVING an inability to work, or an inability to find work has to be a requirement... the list goes on and on. We are giving lazy scum comfortable, nearly free places to live while the veterans who have risked their lives for this country are often times homeless and in dire straits. Makes me sick.
Eric Bezler May 20, 2011 at 09:07 PM
@JP It's really offensive to use "lazy scum" to describe some people. I'm just kidding. I completely agree with you. I just felt compelled to reply before a bleeding-heart socialist calls you out.
Pat Roberts May 21, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Peter, capitalism is an economic system. Democracy is a political system. If there is state control of the economy, it's socialism. Often, with socialism, there is little or no democracy. For all their problems, capitalism and democracy provide more opportunities to more people than socialism does. With state control over resources, the non-elected people who run the various agencies which control the allocation of those resources have power that is hard to challenge. If the politically correct and the affordable housing people here had less power (it's diminishing, fortunately), we would have more variety in our housing options. Of course, they will fight that change as hard as they can, because it means fewer jobs for them and less power for them to run things. They will always say, as they do now, that they are fighting hard for the poor and disadvantaged. They would get less support if they were honest about what motivates them.
Rira May 22, 2011 at 01:19 AM
@JP - Get a permit for that parade and I'll march in your front row! Thanks for saying waht everyone is so PC afraid of saying . I know people who 'put on theor show' for their case workers to re-quailify for all their B S housing , food etc while they can work and DO for cash under the table and their kids work for cash all the while getting handout, WICS , you name ot. and the cae workers know but cannot prove anything and if they even try to, the system is not there to back them up. and why would the case woprker even bother, it wont change their jiob, just more thankless work and theyu would probably get threats. in fact. the more cases, the more job security for them!!! and the politicians are not there either, like chang diaz, shje does not want to investivagete and blow the top off the scammers of the system - they vote for her and all the others, like sanchez, arroyo etc and when people point out the scammers, it's "oh that's not PC" and the VETS, they get the worst end - it is just awful - when ever i ride the 39 and see them and think how they came back from Nam and were 'blamed' for Nam and then kicked to the curb - it's just awful, but the military gets billions to buy new bombs that Gates does not even want!
Michael Halle May 22, 2011 at 05:11 AM
I guess a financial market-driven economic meltdown, an recession of a scale not seen since the 1930's, more than one in ten Americans out of work with few jobs being created, and large cuts to state and local aid for social services form a pretty good counterweight to a defense of unregulated capitalism for many, but not all, people. If you're in need of assistance in difficult times, for whatever reason (including being a veteran), or you're interested in exactly how little all those people "gaming the system" need to make to be ineligible for financial or housing assistance, you can find information at http://massresources.org . When I look at the income criteria, asset limits, and warnings about several year waiting lists, I must admit I'm not really thinking, "I gotta get me some of this easy street" but rather, "there but for the grace of God go I." And when I take my family to an activity at the JPNDC's Brewery complex, my first thought isn't, "they really went for all that non-profit power and the money" but instead, "I'm so happy we can enjoy this community resource." But back on-topic: WF has said it wants to prove its "commitment" to be "productive and positive members of the JP community" (their words). That's great to hear from anybody. This first meeting is a place to start defining that relationship - I hope to hear many ideas from everyone. Results, though, will come from asking, discussing, and partnering, not from compelling.
Pat Roberts May 22, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Rira, I also know a young woman who scammed the welfare system: after she had her baby, she lived with her boyfriend and his mother, and told her caseworker that she didn't know where the father was. She got to stay home with her baby for a year. Around the same time, our kids were little. We both worked part-time so we could trade off taking care of the baby, seldom saw each other, were tight on money, etc. I didn't learn about her scam until later, or I would definitely have turned her in (though I wonder if it would have done any good). Then, when her boyfriend started hitting her, she got into a subsidized apartment. Her new boyfriend moved in with her (not in the rules) and started paying some of her rent (ditto). We taxpayers were still subsidizing her, despite our own challenges to get by. Periodically there are stories in the paper about families in housing projects like Bromley Heath who have lived for generations in subsidized housing and have been scamming the system for that long. It's interesting that attempts to reform this system happen so seldom. I imagine it's because there is a strong lobby to protect it, and politicians don't want to be criticized as heartless. And people who don't really know the details of the scammers will always defend it.
Michael Halle May 23, 2011 at 06:35 AM
Pat, Forgive me for not remembering the age of your children, but the case you refer to must have been from at least fifteen or twenty years ago, right? There have in fact been major changes in the welfare system since then, particularly in 1996 under Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress. Those changes include work requirements and federal lifetime limits on benefits. Housing programs have not changed as radically, but given the number of even minor changes that have happened since then, I'm not sure what specific lessons about the system one can draw today from the example you relate. On the other hand, your experience re-affirms that raising children is really hard work, doing it on a limited income can force extremely difficult choices, and having your boyfriend start hitting you while you're trying to raise a small kid is a pretty awful experience made much worse by being poor. Whatever one's view of the system as a whole, I think there's a reasonable expectation of lenience and expedience in, say, domestic violence abuse cases where there's a child involved. You don't have to be a "bleeding heart" to not be heartless.
Rira May 23, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Among other huge issues, housing is the single issue that dramatically influences ALL conversations when so often the visible and very real heart breaking cases are fewer (we will NEVER know the real numbers ) than the press and pandering politicians and job saving bearucrats will ever admit or allow to be investigated by a true 3rd party such as an expert consultant with zero interest in the outcome. The housing issue is driving the whose fooders and whiiping them into a frenzy when in reality, some of the truly heart breaking stories that EVERYONE does care about , even a tea partier i am sure is totally unaffected by gentrification. Public housing residents have fixed rates, so rising property vlaues has no effect on thsoe in need , they are already protected and there are a 1,000 more units under construction!
Rira May 23, 2011 at 05:02 PM
A single parent in dire conditions, the families that the activists are advocating for will never be affected by a grocery store - but seeing them, or imagining them being affected by while foods stirs up incredible emotions. The whose fooders and people like Chang Diaz are driven by emotions, that are driven by headlines, and headlines sell newspapers. Emotions are no way to really help people. But politicians LOVE emotions, because they can press that button and get elected - it's far easier than doing the work of getting at the root of a systemic problem like affordable housing abuse. If a courageous politician could efficiently use the affordable units we now have, get the 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc generations out of their 'deeded' units and open them up to those who really need them, we would not need more!
Rira May 23, 2011 at 05:09 PM
And the with the existing stock of a variety of affordable housing options, in projects, sec 8, 80/20 buildings, federal, state, city , public/private partnerships, etc etc etc etc efficiently used with those who no longer qualify OUT, and those who DO, get that unit, we can then have affordable housing AND market housing co-exist in TRUE diversity WITH economically viable businsses that have jobs, good and services and yes, raise property values, so our government can then tax properties and raise revenue so it can afford to provide ALL the services we all want. Lower property values = lower taxes = cuts to all programs = plain /simple.

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