Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Addendum

Recently, I was in Vermont (much more about that in posts to come). In Burlington, the state's largest city with a whopping population of around 40,000, the City passed a by-law several years ago that there would be only one grocery store allowed to operated within City limits. Tenders were made by, amongst others, a New England chain called Hanniford's and the local co-operative grocery store. Against all odds, the Onion River Co-op won the tender, with the City really going out on a limb to make this happen. What a concept - progressive leadership! Anyways, it is my understanding that the Co-op really floundered for the first few years, under the management of a person who'd come from the South and had come from a corporate-run grocery chain background. He didn't know how to run the Co-op and so it suffered.  A change of management (a local who had a lot of knowledge about co-operatives) turned the Co-op around and it is now apparently the second highest grossing, independently owned co-operative in the United States! Given the population it serves, this is pretty amazing. I love visiting the Co-op in Burlington. It's a full-service grocery store, so you can find things like Cheerios and a small section dedicated to Coke/Pepsi, but there are also items you'd never see in a normal grocery store, like Goat's Milk Smoothie, and everything is labelled according to its origin (i.e. local, regional, US, imported). The selection of Vermont-produced foods is wonderful, and I am always especially drawn to the cheese aisle. On my most recent visit, however, I made a foray into the meat section, as I was house-sitting and had a hankering for a homemade meal.  I was delighted when I came to the beef section and found these signs:

What a stark difference from the labelling at the local Sobeys here, where I recently discovered the cereal aisle had been labelled so shoppers could identify what types of cereals are appropriate for adults, families and children.  After I wrote that blog post, I decided it'd be nice to add some visuals to the blog post for effect. I was about to take my third shot - of the Child's Cereal' section - when a Sobeys employee (a manager I think) told me that I wasn't allowed to take photos in the store.  I was too embarrassed to inquire as to why, so I won't try to make any conclusions about the rationale, but really?! What is so secret about the contents of a grocery store that photos aren't allowed? Or am I missing something obvious? Is it about 'security and safety'...the catchall rationale for everything that 'they' want to impose upon 'us' to reduce our power/freedom.  But I digress. The manager didn't make me erase the two photos I did manage to take, so here they are!!

Finally, it should be noted that while I was taking the photos at Burlington's Co-op, I wasn't approached by anyone, however, when my friend was looking for advice about a natural remedy for a health condition at about five minutes before close, one employee went in search of a staff member that had expertise in the area and she provided some great advice to my friend.

All of this has me wondering if Charlottetown could/would support such an alternative grocery store (I don't consider Co-op Atlantic to be quite the same, although it IS better than Sobeys/Superstore in my opinion), and if we would ever see such leadership from the City in terms of establishing such a grocery store here.   One can always hope or one can take action to make it happen! Watch this space for more....

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