Come Back To Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard

The Newark Meijer is set to close in May. Thursday one of the employees was out near the entrance trying to fill a large pothole with a shovel and cold patch asphalt from a bag. Layoffs begin tomorrow. The north 21st Street neighborhood is occupied by three other supermarkets – Aldi, Kroger and Walmart. The present Connell’s/Ollie’s/etc. building further north once housed a Columbus based food retailer named Big Bear. That location was their attempt at a hypermarket (Harts and Big Bear under one roof), something the Michigan based Meijer pioneered and mastered. Big Bear also had stores in Heath at Southgate and downtown Newark (now Lil Bear). Big Bear folded taking down all its retailers. Giant Eagle, out of Pennsylvania, swept in revitalizing many of the supermarkets, including the Southgate store but not the 21st St. one. That location remained essentially neglected and vacant. It has only recently recovered full tenancy after extensive renovation. Going way back in the “way back machine” one finds a large strip mall at the southwest corner of Mt Vernon Rd. and Deo drive. It housed, among other things, a Kroger, Plaza Hardware, and even a Cinema. On north 21st St. was a discount retailer named Twin Fair. To get a feel for what a shopping experience was like there and then, visit LS Sales in Lancaster. The west side of 21st St south of Goosepond was a vast, unintentional wetlands – monoculture farming when it was dry, enormous amounts of ducks, geese, and amphibians when it was wet (this time of year). Indian Valley Plaza was built with Kroger committing as an anchor tenant. Plaza Hardware moved to where the new Mt. Vernon Rd. Goodwill outlet will soon open. Eventually the strip mall left behind sat empty and deteriorating for the longest time until finally being demolished. Meijer bought out Twin Fair and turned what was, at that time, a relatively new building into a hypermarket. This was quite exceptional for Meijer. Like Aldi, Meijer builds new, always promoting a consistent brand identity through its architecture. Arkansas based Walmart decided geese, ducks, and frogs look better on fabric and as lawn ornaments so they put up a parking lot. Aldi was the last to move in. Altogether, 48,000 residents can, within Newark itself, bring home the groceries from 3 large hypermarkets and one “efficiency” model supermarket on the north end of town, and one smaller store downtown. In addition, a smattering of small grocery stores throughout the other neighborhoods enables those without transportation to do likewise. Outside the city proper are the 4 large retailers (and Aldi) in Heath with Giant Eagle being the closest. For those wanting to leave an even larger carbon footprint, there is always the Aldi owned Trader Joes, etc. miles away (but “only minutes away” via the new freeways).

Walmart sits on 22 acres, is the largest retailer and the third largest corporation in the world. It offers banking services and green groceries. According to Wiki, “in 2009, it generated 51 percent of its $258 billion sales in the U.S. from grocery business.” It is a publicly traded company with just under half the shares owned by the managing Walton family. It actively resists any representation or organization by its employees. It is the biggest private employer in the world. Cincinnati based Kroger is one tenant of the Indian Valley Plaza that displaces 16 acres. It is a publicly traded company, the largest grocery chain and 2nd largest retailer in the US, and the 4th largest retailer in the world. Its employees are organized and represented by the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers). Recently it has posted higher than expected earnings in the 4th quarter of 2012. It has shown continuous growth for the past 37 consecutive quarters. Meijer is a private family owned and run corporation. The 21st St. location owns approximately 16 acres. The company was the first to offer self-service and shopping carts. It originated the super center hypermarket. It consistently ranks in the top 20 grocery retailers in the US. Giant Eagle is likewise privately held. In 2012 it ranked 21st among American Food Retailers. The employees in a limited number of its stores are organized and represented. Aldi is a private German discount supermarket chain. It predominantly offers a single label product line (store brand) with minimum labor being required to multi task at multiple positions. The owner of the branch of Aldi that is in America is the richest man in Germany having a worth of 17.2 billion Euros. The two co-owners (his relatives) of the branch that owns Trader Joes do not lag far behind with 16 billion.

Food in Newark. Surrounded by intensive monoculture industrial style farming that results mostly in inedible grain, Newark gets the vast majority of its food from outside, from companies likewise located outside. It is all trucked in, and all the retailers tout it as “the freshest available”. The monoculture farming surrounding Newark produces a harvest that can be used as food, or feed for animals utilized as food, or for ethanol to fuel the vehicles that get most of the residents to the food that they eventually put on their table, or to make the plastics within which they will carry that food through their entry door (most hypermarkets provide outlets for vehicle fuel). The produce of this industrial form of agriculture becomes comparable to steel, plastic resin, wood or bolts of fabric, a “raw material”. It can be “processed” into an entire array of things. One almost wonders whether someone like McDonalds won’t utilize it with 3D printers. As a commodity, it is the perfect stuff of corporate retailing. The Meijer store mirrors American juris prudence. The property owner can receive the benefits of incentives to locate and “improve” a parcel while bearing no responsibility for its demise, ultimately even benefiting in the end by having public funds used to demolish the discarded resource. Newark is uniquely positioned to illustrate this whereby corporate entities, “existing only in contemplation of the law”, receive all the benefits and rights of personhood, without any of the responsibilities. When the neglected shell of an enormous building or shopping plaza sits abandoned and deteriorating surrounded by a crumbling parking lot, it is only the “real” persons, the alive residents, who must negotiate its shabbiness and tolerate its aridity. Time passes and the resource is either redeveloped not as intended, or destroyed and left vacant. What Meijer discards could be the North 21st St. Market, ala’ the Columbus North Market (and other such “under one roof” diverse food retail centers). The monoculture thinking of the hypermarket with its international importation of processed food would receive very real and genuine competition. A single location under one roof would offer a diversity of food and locally produced retail products from equally diverse origins. Produce from area hoop houses, truck farms as well as from Amish biodiversity agriculture, all within close proximity to Newark, would really be “the freshest available” (Amish buggies often were spotted outside Meijer). Einstein is reported to have said that you cannot solve the problems you face through the same mindset that caused those problems. Diversity – something to consider.

“For if heartaches were commercials, we’d all be on TV”

John Prine

008e005e 003e Newark 3-8-13 007e


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