Bodegas should seize the day

As a resident of the Hyde Square area of JP, I’ve watched with keen interest as the Hi-Lo closed and the Whole Foods deal was announced. I, as well as many of my cohort, are fully in support of having a Whole Foods within walking distance. While I was sad to learn that the Hi-Lo closed, I used to shop there and remember it not being staffed well. That said, the grocery offered many imported products I couldn’t get at Harvest or Stop & Shop (or Whole Foods in Brighton).

I think it’s important to note that I am not a one-stop shopper, and I don’t think I’m alone in this: I purchase a vegetable community-supported agriculture (CSA) membership and a meat CSA each year; I shop for quick items and large-quantity items at Stop & Shop; I go to Harvest (when I can get down there) to pick up more unusual organic items and vegetables (plus I’m a member); I go to City Feed for local ice cream, local produce and a sandwich; and I’ve shopped at the bodegas when I wasn’t able to find an ingredient at the Hi-Lo. Plus, I drive all the way to Brighton to go to the Whole Foods. I know my habits, and they are not going to change. I will still shop at just about every venue I can, depending on what I need or want, depending on my budget, and depending on my proximity (a pretty big factor, and, I’d say, a big factor for those solely dependent on public transportation).

This, though, is the part most relevant to this story. I’ve thought, since the announcement of Whole Foods, that the Hi-Lo’s closing presents a wonderful opportunity for the many bodegas in our neighborhood to take up the gauntlet of carrying an even greater number of products not available elsewhere. Hi-Lo’s closing results in a twofold effect: We get an alternative to Stop & Shop (if you live over here and on this side of JP, you know how difficult it can be to get down to Harvest, parking or no parking), and the locally-owned bodegas have a great opportunity to fill the void that the Hi-Lo left. This is exactly the type of positive neighborhood impact we should be looking for when we (meaning I) talk about the Whole Foods Effect. If we take this unique opportunity to push business to these smaller entities, we all win: The smaller businesses prosper; shoppers return to our neighborhood; and those on this side of the neighborhood also get a business that is known for its excellent employment practices and quality products. Everyone’s happy.

This opportunity should not be wasted. Give the bodegas the opportunity to step up their service. Yes, right now they don’t offer much more than convenience items, but with right set of circumstances, they could offer so much more. And I, for one, would be thrilled to continue to patronize their businesses.

A.E.S. Gray, Jamaica Plain

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