Category Archives: Lucky’s Market

Hot Air

Foods Facts

In case you missed it, here’s the WFHB podcast featuring an interview with Keith Taylor, a co-op governance researcher who works at Indiana University’s Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Taylor started a change.org petition calling on the Board of Directors of Bloomingfoods to come up with a clear and public plan to address some of the issues that are making B-foods employees, shoppers, and co-op members nervous these days.

Bloomingfoods

Bloomingfoods

Taylor was grilled by News Director Joe Crawford last week about goings on at the local co-op grocer. Among other things, B-foods faces a potential union vote by its employees and must find a way to compete with two new natural and organic grocers coming to town within the next couple of years. Both Lucky’s Market and Whole Foods Market have announced plans to hit Bloomington. Lucky’s on South Walnut Street is due to open by the end of May.

Friday, the B-foods Board announced its decision to ask for help from the National Co+Op Grocers (NCG) in resolving its financial picture. At the same time the Board revealed that its president, Tim Clougher, has stepped down.

The NCG move will entail volunteer managers from other member grocery stores coming in and observing B-foods’ operations, doing an audit of its books, and making recommendations for repairs.

If Bloomingfoods pulls through the next couple of years in decent shape, it’ll be a testament to the loyalty of its customer base and the buy-local philosophy. B-foods not only faces competition from Lucky’s and WFM but mega-grocer Kroger has gone all in on natural and organic, especially at its newly remodeled Kroger Theme Park store on the east side.

The NCG request indicates that the B-foods brain trust is serious about the co-op’s future.

Shouting Out For Hamilton

Congrats to Rob Deppert for landing the plum task of intro’ing Howard Dean when the lobbyist/Dem Party sachem comes to town to flog for mayoral candidate John Hamilton.

Dean will spiel for Hamilton at the Monroe County Courthouse Wednesday at 1:00pm. The former Vermont governor and chair of the Democratic National Committee is credited with implementing the party’s “50-state strategy” that loaded both the US Senate and House of Representatives in its favor in the 2006 elections. In 2008, Barack Obama used the same strategy win election as president. Under the strategy, the Dems fought hard in what had previously been regarded as hopeless states and districts. Voters who’d considered themselves outnumbered in those places were targeted and energized, leading to numerous Democratic upsets.

Dean

Howard Dean

Most Murricans only know of Dean through a video of him hollering to rouse the troops at post-election rally the evening of the Iowa Caucuses in 2004. Known as the “Dean Scream,” video of the outburst was aired endlessly that month and was the final nail in the coffin of Dean’s presidential aspirations. Fox News pretty much ran all-scream, all the time for a good four weeks.

Me? I thought he got a raw deal from the get-go. So he hollered. So his voice was hoarse and cracked. It was a pep rally, for pity’s sake.

Truth is, Dean is a top-notch political strategist and certainly would have been my guy for president over both incumbent George W. Bush (duh!) and even eventual Dem nominee John Kerry.

Happy Days Here Again?

Speaking of politics, the folks who run my back office — AKA Soma Coffee — just got in a new shipment of mugs. Said mugs, natch, aren’t really new; Soma’s famed for its retro inventory. Take the mug I got today — on it was a repro of the New York Times front page the day after Barack Obama was elected prez in 2008.

NYT

Of course, I got to reading the impossibly tiny print. I was reminded that the election had produced a Democratic majority in the Senate of 59-41 as well as a 257-178 plurality in the House that happy November day.

All I can wonder is how in the goddamned hell the Dems pissed that advantage away.

OTOH: It looks like presumptive Dem nominee for prez in 2016, Hillary Clinton, is harkening back to those cheery times with her recent moves to the Left. Mebbe the party has learned a thing or two over the last couple of elections.

Hot Air

Petition Pushes B-foods Board

Anybody want to lay odds that Bloomingfoods will be nothing more than a fondly-recalled part of this town’s history within five years? That’s no sucker’s play. “Natural” and organic mega-grocers Lucky’s Market and Whole Foods Market are coming to town and B-foods already is feeling the pinch.

In addition to grappling with the potential unionization of its workforce and the need to shutter its underperforming Kirkwood Avenue store, the Bloomingfoods co-op is running for its life at this time.

Blame it on the vagaries of the trendy “natural” foods market or the phase of the moon if you wish. Some, though, are blaming the co-op’s Board of Directors. In fact, a change.org petition page has been set up, demanding that the Board, well, do something. Acc’d’g to the petition, the Board has been sitting on its hands through what is described as the current  “crisis.”

One Pencil source says that because B-foods had been the only “natural” and organic grocer in town for decades, its Board has come to suffer from “extreme hubris.”

[The Pencil will not disclose the identities of many of its sources for Bloomingfoods stories because they are employees and may not wish to put their jobs at risk.]

This person explains: “Our Board has never had to do anything. They don’t have the will [or] knowledge to act.”

The petition asks the Board to “Reach out to our national association, [National Co+op Grocers (NCG)], and request an emergency peer review/audit.” The NCG, apparently, can send in volunteer General Managers from other member grocers to pore over B-foods’ books, interview management and employees, and assess things like merchandising, buying, and pricing. The vol GMs then would file a report with recommendations for a course of action.

Should the Board take the petition-signers’ advice and apply for a NCG review, they’d better hurry. Even Kroger has upped its commitment to “natural” and organic foods of late. In fact, the east side Kroger Theme Park’s organics section is as big as any of Bloomingfoods’ entire locations. Kroger has gone all-in on “naturals” and organics. Its overall sales in that category for 2014 reached to between $3-4 billion. Kroger’s organic house brand, Simple Truth®, accounted for a billion dollars in sales last year.

Mainstream customers here who have shied away from crunchy grocers like Bloomingfoods are embracing the trend at their preferred neighborhood Kroger. And while many Bloomingfoods customers are driven to remain loyal for moral and ethical reasons, many others who simply want “clean” foods likely will get their grub at Kroger rather than make the trip to B-foods.

A quick lesson in label designations: I put “natural” in quotation marks because there is no legal or regulatory definition of the term. Many consumers define “natural” foods as those without chemical additives, ignoring the scientific fact that things like water (H2O) or table salt (NaCl) are themselves chemicals. Organics, on the other hand, are strictly controlled by the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program. The growing, processing, packaging, handling, and merchandising of certified organic foods all must meet the NOP’s rigid standards.

National_Organic_Program

The USDA’s Official Organic Program Logo

BTW: much of the NOP body of regulations was written, essentially, by Whole Foods Market. The Organic Foods Production Act was passed into law by Congress in 1990, calling for regulations covering organic farming practices and the publication of lists of allowed and forbidden ingredients. The NOP took effect in 2000. During that ten-year period, Whole Foods was essentially the only game in town — or, more accurately, the nation — when it came to organic retailing.

Anyway, business and food store co-op expert, Keith Taylor of Indiana University’s Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, set up the change.org petition. You can hear him explain the situ. tomorrow afternoon on WFHB. As soon as I get more info on the time and show, I’ll pass it on.

Time Flies

Make sure to catch this slate.com piece on photographer Jeff Wolin’s fascinating study of Bloomington’s citizens. Wolin snapped pix of Pigeon Hill  folk back in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Then he did it again with many from the same cast of characters some 20 years later. Pigeon Hill is a small stretch of shotgun houses northwest of downtown Bloomington, on the other side of Rogers Street. Suffice it to say professors and doctors do not live there.

Tempus fugit, babies, and that maxim has been brought home dramatically through Wolin’s lens. Here’s a taste:

Images/Jeffrey A.  Wolin

A young fellow named Timmie in the neighborhood, 1991, and Timothy in 2012 at Wabash Valley prison — Images by Jeffrey A. Wolin

See more of Wolin’s pix at Pictura Galley, on the Square, through May 30th.

Who Runs This Town?

Perhaps one of the lawyers or pols who read these almost-daily screeches can clear something up. Yesterday I spoke with someone purportedly in the know. This person said that as far back as the Frank McCloskey administration here in this thriving, throbbing megalopolis, there was an understanding that real estate developers have held an absolute upper hand in any negotiations with the city.

That is, if a developer and construction company partnership came along and proposed to erect a mixed-use hotel, grocery store, and opium den at the corner of, say, Indiana and Kirkwood avenues, well, then within a year or two there would stand at that intersection just such a structure — let’s call it The Blooming-den Suites. And no matter how many citizens would object to a grocery store standing there, or how many city council members would rant and rave about the loss of a row of forsythia bushes at that location, the real estate partnership would get its way.

Developers and construction cos., this person observed, were — and are — as powerful as gods. Their will, in other words, be done.

In fact, this person swore, Frank McCloskey gathered the city’s planning commissioners one day in his office and said:

I won’t tell you what to do but I will say this — when a big development plan comes in, no matter how much it violates our dearly-held “character” or flouts our zoning guidelines, if we nix it, then that developer will sue our pants off. And we don’t have enough money to pay for those legal fees even if we win.

Hmm. This is one of those stories that sounds really good. The world is rife with avaricious money and concrete men who are dead-set on ruining our quaint small town. And the valiant, embattled mayor, realizing the deck is stacked, sadly explains the facts-of-life to his people.

These facts of life, my source attested, are in play today even more than they were back in Frank McCloskey’s day.

So, is there anyone out there with the guts to admit this or the credibility to deny it?

 

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