Whole Foods’ merger with Jeff Bezos’ mega-brainchild last year foreshadows a future of vacant community health food markets with “For Rent” signs plastered in the windows. I can’t help but believe that the largeness of a corporation directly correlates with its disregard for the public and its health. But supporting your failing, local employee-owned market can be a tricky battle between money and morals.
Just a few months ago, Over-The-Rhine lost one of its small operation markets, Epicurean Mercantile Company, which housed a deli-style restaurant in the back called The Counter. It was one of the first shops to open on its block, and it’s survived by the several businesses that followed in its footsteps. Some say its proximity to Findlay Market was the final nail in the coffin, but owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden refused to comment on the reason behind its closing.
Now, Clifton Market on Ludlow is struggling to keep its shelves stocked without a steady flow of capital to fall back on. In a letter to its stakeholders, The Clifton Market Board declared the company in a “dire financial crisis” due to monthly losses, negative working capital and mortgage loan default. The board has been encouraging the community to choose Clifton Market over other larger retailers, even though the options might not be as diverse. They’ve created a GoFundMe with a $300,000 goal, and $4,500 has been raised so far. The board wrapped up its letter by saying the market “cannot succeed without [stakeholders],” thanking them for their continued support. Clifton Market denied a request for an interview to discuss the state of the grocery.
Local markets are staring at their empty shelves and bank accounts while the biggest (and arguably most expensive) health food market just married into Amazon’s family and is expected to live happily ever after. Maybe these collapsing local groceries just didn’t play their cards right, or maybe their branding wasn’t snappy enough. Most likely, it was the $1-2 upcharge for the same goods that Kroger sells.
That’s where this situation transitions into a sticky one. Forking over a couple extra bucks per item in your cart to save your drowning local grocery seems like a good Samaritan move (and Good Sam always made the right thing look so easy). But regardless of whether you’re working with a college budget, a doubly-expensive grocery bill is a tough pill to swallow — even with the complementary pat on the back.
But it’s not too late to save Clifton Market. If you’re in a financial position to shop there, do that. The market needs all the capital it can get. If your fridge is stocked and you’re still feeling generous, throw their GoFundMe a bone and you’ll get a free pizza. If you’re low on cash, contact the market directly by volunteering your time. It takes an entire community to revive the grocery underdog. After all, this is America; we love the grimy, outdoor underdog, but we tend to pamper the cuter, less problematic dog and let it sleep in our bed.