That’s one thing that Oakland has suffered from/been blessed by I do believe – benign neglect. For years nobody wanted to build a grocery store here. Now, it’s the hippest City on the Left Coast.
Sure, a few smart residential and commercial investors were smart enough to leap in and scoop up much of West Oakland and Downtown after San Francisco’s recent population boom (one of many I’ve seen growing up in the Bay Area). Whole Foods saw the potential early on, and despite high prices they thrive because of their location and their offerings.
Big chain grocery stores like Food Maxx (owned by Save Mart Corporation) in the Laurel also went under. I mean, why go to Food Maxx when there is Farmer Joe’s independent market? I love them. Farmer Joe’s is on par with Whole Foods, but is much smaller, locally owned and less expensive. Their store in the Dimond has arguably one of the finest produce sections in Oakland or Berkeley, IMHO.
Yes, we still have Safeway and Walgreens and they serve a purpose.
We don’t have a need for things like department stores (Sears) or discount home goods and “art” from the Big Box Chains (Pier 1 Imports). Why go there when you’ve got the Chinatown Farmers Market and so many amazing gift, home, service and other shops downtown?
Even our tourist area is dominated by independently owned operations. Sure, we still have a Scott’s Seafood and a Ben & Jerry’s (or are they closed now, too?). But, when you think Jack London Square today – and you’re a bit of a foodie too – you surely think Plank. Lungomare and Forge before any chain offerings. At least I do.
Meanwhile out here in the East – not the deep East but the 50’s is pretty far south/east from downtown Oakland – we get by without too many big box grocery chains. You can get plenty of pantry items like coffee, sugar and canned soups at the drug stores, and at all the friendly little places like Island Super Market and Shop Rite here in the Melrose/Maxwell Park area.
So, in the words of those classic stewardesses on Saturday Night Live, Buh BYE Big Boxes.
We really do seem to “shop local”. One more way we can be trendsetters here in Brooklyn By The Bay. After all, isn’t it time we went beyond interesting facial hair, record shops, bocce ball and locally brewed beer? Note: We should continue to offer up good beer and records though. Because, let’s admit it, those things never go out of style.