Comment of the Day: The Shops Around the Corner

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SHOPS AROUND THE CORNER “Where I live, in the Montrose area, I will soon be within a three minute drive of TWO Whole Foods, a brand new HEB, an updated Kroger, another supernice Kroger on West Gray, a Randall’s, a Fiesta, etc. Three of these will be within a 10 minute walk from my house. I’d wager that there are few (no?) other neighborhoods in America offering this kind of variety and abundance. Meanwhile, my fellow Houstonians who happen to live in the 3rd Ward have no real shopping options nearby. They have to drive 10 or more minutes to perhaps suboptimal grocery stores and fresh produce. But there is a plethora of fried and fast food options in their neighborhood. So, when deciding where to eat quickly, McDonalds or the Navy Fried Seafood store seem to be the first choices. I think what Superhouston is implying is a possibly causal relationship between poverty, [poor] health, and a lack of fresh food. The connection is complicated, multi-dimensional, and definitely worth talking about.” [Matt, commenting on Where the Grocery Stores Aren’t]

24 Comment

  • Economics at play? Perhaps there is no need for such a plethora of fine grocery stores due to lack of demand for fresh food.

  • A friend of mine, Dick Longworth (with The Chicago Council on Global Affairs), was involved in the original ‘food deserts’ study, and still writes on the topic. One of his main suggestions is when a Walmart moves a superstore into an urban area, part of the negotiation with the city/community is that they put a grocery store into a food desert in that city. We don’t need the heights Walmart, but if it begins to look like it is inevitable,a Supermercardo in the 3rd ward (or other FD)should be negotiated.

  • Oops – Supermercado

  • The poor people have their grocery stores. The little “corner stores.” Where the owners rip them off by charging $1-2 more for everything. Knowning many do not have cars and not going to take a bus to an actual grocery store for something they forgot or ran out of. Or just need. Having managed to scrape together a couple of dollars and need something to eat other than fast good.

    The poor with cars in Third Ward at least have Fiesta on San Jacinto and on Wayside.

    As for fast food “restaurants” they are a plague in all neighborhoods.

  • Socialists always blame businesses for the plight of a neighborhood, the opposite is quite true. It’s the residents that shape their own neighborhood… Whole foods will not build a store in the hood where there is no demand, conversely there are no fried chicken joints in River Oaks. Demand comes first, it’s the basic and natural principle of business.

  • commonsense, you’re making too much sense.

    Of course now that Michelle Obama is telling everyone what to eat, the poor neighboorhoods will experience an explosion of fresh produce stands on every corner. Crime will decrease, and litter will be picked up. Social engineering will trump freewill!

  • Regarding the “Let’s Move” campaign, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with educating and encouraging people to make healthier choices. A good friend of mine works with low income, obese children and their families to educate them and encourage them to live healthier lives, including choosing water over sodas, veggies over chips, fruit over cookies, playing outside with their friends over watching TV, etc.
    Whether unhealthy eating habits are due to a lack of grocery stores or vice versa, there’s obviously a growing children’s health crisis in this country. You can talk about economics and misrepresent Mrs. Obama’s health promotion campaign as a “socialist” policy all you want, but that doesn’t erase the fact that these are very real problems that impact a large portion of the US population.

  • Well said, Matt. I live at the edge of the Third Ward-Dowling and Southmore. The closest store to us is the HEB on Scott and OST. There is barely any produce or fresh food there, basically no organics, etc. The circular ad I get advertises malt liquor. People think that residents of those neighborhoods don’t want anything nicer, with more fresh produce, and better food choices-bs! If it was there, along with some of the stuff specific to the neighborhood (hog’s heads, anyone?), people would buy it.

  • Hey Ricemilitaryboy-
    Nobody accused Laura Bush of forcing us to read to our kids. Or Lady Bird of forcing us to stop littering and plant wildflowers.
    So why the Big Hate when another high profile First Lady speaks her cause?
    Especially one as bland and non-controversial as fresh food and exercise.

  • @Ricemilitary, tell that to Mike Huckabee.

  • No wonder I avoid Washington Avenue now… it’s full of ricemilitaryboys and their pretentious, 30k millionaire selves fresh out of the frat house.

  • @Ken and commonsense, the truthiness twosome –
    Walgreens has begun adding fresh food at their stores located in food deserts and they deem it a success

    Stores follow the money. For the first 15 years I lived in the Heights, I had to drive to the Montrose for many things. It isn’t about demand – it is about demand for the highest mark-up goods. Haven’t you noticed how the big markets carry so many non-grocery items?
    The profit on an apple is tiny. The profit on a patio set, a potted plant or prepared meal is much larger.
    Did you flunk Econ 101?

  • Long, long ago, many cities had large municipal markets. Fruits and veggies were sold at outdoor vendor stands fresh off the truck and at bulk prices. Kids were weighed in school because the fear was that they were underweight. A few cities still have decent municipal markets (Cleveland OH, for example), but most have shuttered in favor of the big box grocer. If cities set up municpal markets in food deserts, you will see a major change in the way people eat. Unfortunately, local farmers markets are an even greater luxury than a produce section in a grocery store.

  • How much money was wasted on a study that tells us what we already know ~ that it’s HELL to be poor?

    When I lived in Midtown we’d drive to the HEB on Fountainview. This was before Randalls, and Fiesta was where we went if we were feeling adventurous.

    And Harold,

    I think they make fun of Michelle because she eats way too much ice cream. At lest she ain’t eating cake.

  • @commonsense – residents can have a voice in shaping their own neighborhoods, but they are not the only ones. Large companies look for markets based on spending habits, which are traceable when payments are made with credit cards, debit cards, maybe even checks. “Poor” areas have a tendency toward a cash-only economy, so cash spending habits are much harder to track. Plus, if there is no grocery store in an area, people are probably driving to another area, spending their cash someplace else, and skewing the data. It might seem like there’s no market in an area simply because there’s no place for people to spend there.

  • I think you guys are underestimating the lengths and millions of dollars spent on the major chain’s research into demographics of a certain area. There is a large number of ways to predict demand… starting with the census to tracking sales of competitors, to tracking distributors, not to mention a number of research companies that make it their business to know. Despite popular belief, sampling is extremely accurate, in fact the government conceded that if the Census was done by sampling and not by head count, it would be infinitely more accurate (against the law though).

    Grocery stores are running on a 2% average industry margin, if they could make money in the ghetto, they would jump in, but it’s simply not meant to be.

  • “Grocery stores are running on a 2% average industry margin, if they could make money in the ghetto, they would jump in, but it’s simply not meant to be.”

    And this begs the question why in Houston does Walmart get 6 million to go into an area that is flush with grocery stores in comparison? Why isn’t the City putting its TIRZ muscle into these areas instead of Downtown (Pavillions) and Upper Kirby (that Regency Square thing that has yet to get off the ground)? Grocery stores can do a lot to stimulate economic growth in an area that has little.

  • I suspect there are a few more qualifying factors than just $500 million.

  • To claim that the free market will fix everything assumes that we have a free market in the first place. Of course in reality the meat, corn, wheat and soy producer’s lobbyists have managed to pull so much federal subsidy into those products that they can be brought to market at a significantly lower cost than fresh produce. It is then no surprise that the processed and fast foods that are manufactured from these ingredients are also much cheaper in the marketplace than fresh produce. The fact that we eat so much corn and meat is a result of social engineering carried out by big businesses to improve their bottom line. To turn around and claim that government cannot engage in the same thing with the goal of improving health is disingenuous.

    If you want a free market, either remove all of the farming subsidies or at the very least balance them equally across all crops.

  • I don’t think anyone who’s tried getting a parking space at the Buffalo Speedway HEB or the Kirby Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon would argue that the area is over-saturated with good grocery stores.

  • @Brian haha, good call. Far too true..

  • Good call Jimbo. The only truly free markets are those that deal in illegal goods. Everyone else has rules, regs, tariffs, tax incentive and disincetives, labor laws, heck-a zillion things to consider. Hookers, heroin, slaves, guns – now those are free markets!

  • Commonsense must not realize that there’s a KFC on Shepherd in the 77019 zipcode. It’s located right across the street from Arby’s.

    As for the Third Ward, I volunteer a lot with Project Row Houses. They are trying very hard to bring a fresh produce type of market into one of the properties they have renovated. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

  • Besides the little Fiesta on Dunlavy, which will be the 1st grocery location to tank?

    I don’t think there’s enough market to support all the parasitic grocers trying to suck from the neighborhood… and I don’t think the grocer’s research telling them where to build the giant box is all that good, either.