Newark Meijer Revisited


            “Why cry over spilt milk?” was Ida’s immediate response to our short conversation regarding employment after Meijer. Almost all conversations at supermarket checkout are just one step up from Twitter communiques. There is increasingly less stuff to be had and folks are shopping Meijer more out of custom than acknowledgement of the inevitable. If your recipe requires Jalapeno peppers, and there are none (and won’t be ever again), well you need to go to another establishment. Why not go there to begin with? The cashiers know this. Yet the locals haven’t noticed. The response has been mostly petition drives imploring the store not close, or telling the cashiers what a shame to see them go. We will miss them. It is a normal, natural response rooted in a “local” community disposition. It jars because the giant retailer has no community involvement or interest. And yet, there they are. They arrived in town to make a profit. Now that there is not enough to be made, they are out of here. They leave a building without upgrades, an unpaved parking lot, and fuel tanks that will eventually need to be dug up and disposed of.  There is no “Newark Meijer Community Pool or Community Center”. Never was. Never will be.

            Many readers will remember when a neighborhood mechanic needed extensive hospital care, a restaurant owner or corner grocer suffered a personal loss or property damage.  Residents would “support” the proprietor, financially as well as actively getting involved. “Just the right thing to do.” It still happens today and is the normal “local” community response. Local economy assumes personal involvement, commitment and responsibility on the part of those providing as well as those obtaining goods and services; not as competing entities out to get “the best deal” but as complimentary parts of a cooperative joint living endeavor. One isn’t without the other. We are all in this together. The Newark City Council’s response to rental registration as well as today’s Newark Advocate editorial make the same assumption (“As we’ve noted before, the city must take steps to protect property owners living in their own homes across Newark. These residents are the core investors with a long-term stake in our community. We need them badly if we’re going to stop the downward slide of our housing stock, let alone improve neighborhoods. We don’t want more and more homes becoming rentals, especially with non-local owners.”). Unfortunately, this is approaching a very real, concrete and (some would say) even glaring problem from a “wish it were so” perspective. Vehicles are leased by corporate interests with no connection to Newark. Likewise corporate entities offering communication services, food supply (both retail suppliers as well as franchise restaurants), and housing have little or no community connection or commitment other than doing business in Newark. 43% of the residential housing being non-owner occupant says as much as how many folks drive cars that don’t belong to them but are only leased (a nice way of saying rented). It’s easier thinking that all those cars in the Meijer parking lot have “owners” shopping inside. The Advocate’s and City Council’s response to rental registration parallels that of long time Meijer shoppers. It is easier to continue imagining we have a local economy with committed, interested participants than it is to admit it is overwhelmingly a business economy of investments, marketing and bottom line interests. Council should stop treating the 43% of Newark residential housing as though it were mom and pop business, and start treating it as being about flipping houses, leverage and cash flow.  


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