SmilePolitely.com published an opinion article, “Upsetting the grocery cart“, highlighting the Trader Joe’s 4 C-U petition. There are inaccuracies speckled throughout both the article and the comments. I’m not going to deal with all of them right now, but I’d like to address a few of the errors about the reasoning and motives behind our movement.
Error 1) It is implied that this movement will not work to attract Trader Joe’s
There are several (more than that, really) communities that have previously done exactly what we are doing. And guess what? Those communities now have or are getting Trader Joe’s stores. This is not a pipe dream. This kind of effort does work and has a proven track record. A writeup is coming later this summer that will go into more detail about other towns that have successfully drawn Trader Joe’s.
Error 2) Champaign-Urbana already has plenty of stores that offer what Trader Joe’s offers
The issue for those of us who want Trader Joe’s in C-U is not that there are no stores that sell healthy, natural, gluten-free, organic, etc. items in Central Illinois, it is that no stores offer truly affordable options. It is not practical to suggest that families and individuals go to 6-8 stores a week to find the items they need. You could potentially go to several different stores/markets in town and you may find similar products to what Trader Joe’s carries, but you will be spending more money on those individual items, more on gas, and more in time than if you go to a Trader Joe’s and buy all of those things in one place, at very low everyday prices.
Error 3) “We-Know-What’s-Good-For-You” Approach
This is not so much an error than a prevailing pretentious, condescending attitude coming from many – possibly most – people who are against Trader Joe’s. This is found mainly in the comments section, from Smile Politely writers and readers alike. I’m sorry to disappoint (and severely weaken your arguments), but the people who want a Trader Joe’s store in Central Illinois are not low-income simpletons who cannot figure out how to provide wholesome foods for our families with the current grocery spectrum in our community. Nor are we privileged college students who only care about “dropping our parent’s money” on easily accessible cheap wine, as another commenter states. We are Central Illinois community members, just like you. We are families and individuals who want a place to shop for healthy, wholesome foods that meet our budgetary needs. The snobbery being displayed is offensive and borderline discriminatory.
Error 4) Local is better – ideally
In a perfect world, everyone would be able to shop solely at locally run stores. But let’s face reality; locally run businesses have higher overhead and costs to absorb than larger chain stores. These costs are passed on to the consumer and make places like Common Ground and Strawberry Fields much more expensive. I am a Common Ground co-op member and shop there for some things. Supporting local business is important, but that doesn’t mean that the needs of a large segment of the community are to be ignored if the locally run stores are unable to meet those needs.
So here’s the bottom line: Does the thriving of local businesses take precedence over the thriving of individuals and families in the community? Absolutely not. If the local businesses are not providing what a large mass of the population needs, we should not be made to feel guilty for going out to pursue what is missing in our local stores. The overall good and health of our families is too important.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: locally run stores and Trader Joe’s are NOT mutually exclusive. Everyone deserves the right to affordable, healthy foods. Those who tout the high-and-mighty attitude that you can only support local stores and if you don’t you’re less of a person or member of the community are just plain wrong.
If the narrow-minded SmilePolitely.com comments mirror the attitude of the majority of people who shop exclusively at locally run stores, count me out. Give me a Trader Joe’s where I can shop alongside other average joes who value wholesome, creative, natural, affordable living without being smug.
While they send their “polite smiles” our way, let’s redouble our efforts to bring Trader Joe’s to Central Illinois.