By Yaissy Solis
Illustration by Kelli McAdams.
Lovers of cheap wine, pumpkin yogurt and organic produce will soon find all their grocery needs in one place.
Specialty grocer Trader Joe’s is set to occupy the former Goody’s location in Butler Plaza Central in Gainesville. Neither Butler Plaza nor Trader Joe’s representatives responded to phone calls and e-mails seeking comments.
The store is best known for its low prices, fresh-baked bread and, of course, Two-Buck Chuck wine. A large portion of its products carries the Trader Joe’s label, including vegan, vegetarian and kosher options.
“Trader Joe’s will be a great addition to our community,” Richard MacMaster, a volunteer for Gainesville’s Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said. “We are all very enthusiastic about its arrival.”
MacMaster said the national supermarket chain supports small-sized farms and farmworker rights by carrying fair trade products like coffee and, as of recently, tomatoes.
After two years of refusing to sign on to the the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, Trader Joe’s finally joined on Feb. 9, one day before its grand opening in Naples, Fla. The agreement calls for stores to pay a premium of one extra penny per pound for their tomatoes and buy from growers who guarantee fair wages and decent workplace conditions. Nine other corporations have also joined the coalition’s campaign, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Whole Foods Market.
Jamie Blair, an intern with the Student Farmworker Alliance, said the corporation initially refused to sign the agreement because it called the problem a labor dispute between the farm owners and the farmworkers.
“But after two years of community organizing and support, we were able to convince Trader Joe’s to do the right thing,” she said.
Blair said Trader Joe’s is a positive alternative to other supermarket corporations, such as Publix, that continue to turn a blind eye to the injustices occurring in Florida’s fields.
And with Trader Joe’s opening less than a mile away from Publix, students and locals will have the option to choose between the two supermarkets.
MacMaster said it’s great to be able to shop at a market that is conscious about where its products come from. “If they support fair food we should support them,” he said.
Rebekah Foster, a sustainability studies sophomore at the University of Florida, also promotes shopping at Trader Joe’s — but to a certain extent.
Although Trader Joe’s may offer a range of organic and vegan options, she said, it is better for the community to shop locally, even if that means spending the extra dollar.
“I’m willing to pay more for things that I think are important to buy local, such as fruits, vegetables and honey,” she said.
These items can be bought at local stores like Ward’s Supermarket and Citizen’s Co-op. They can also be bought straight from their producers at the weekly farmers market.
Foster said that not all products can be found at reasonable prices locally, though. In that case, she said, Trader Joe’s would be the next best option.
However, several local food enthusiasts and shop owners shudder at the idea of yet another national supermarket coming to Gainesville.
“Every time people buy from a corporation, money is going out of Gainesville,” said Emily Sparr, one of the coordinators at the Civic Media Center and member of Industrial Workers of the World. “We already struggle enough with money leaving in other ways.”
She said local markets are not only circulating money throughout the community. They are also making efforts to build strong ties to the people living within it, which is something Trader Joe’s has not taken into consideration.
“There are many other locations they could have gone into that would have been closer to actual neighborhoods and the community of Gainesville,” Sparr said. “Instead, they chose to be in the corporate blob of Gainesville.”
However, Trader Joe’s distant location might be a convenience for these local shops, considering the large amount of small food stores and cooperatives that have gone out of business due to the arrivals of supermarket giants.
The Huffington Post reported on Sept. 6 that co-ops across the nation that have been running smoothly for over 30 years are seeing their profits cut in half due to new competition from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Julie Matheney, who shares ownership of the Citizen’s Co-op with 1,400 other members, said the food co-op’s uniqueness and its dedication to the community will keep it afloat once Trader Joe’s opens.
“We’re not really worried about going out of business because our members keep us strong,” she said. “It’s the power of community.”