– Rochester’s city residents have suffered through the closure of Wegmans at Midtown, Mt. Hope and Driving Park. We mourned the loss of our smaller, neighborhood stores. Those stores belonged to us. They were a refuge from the massive, suburban boxes with their chaotic parking lots. They were home.
As much as it hurt to say goodbye and despite the pangs of betrayal, there was no community angst the likes of which we are now seeing in Syracuse.
Wegmans announced recently it is closing the smallest store in its chain on Pond Street on the North Side. The Post-Standard reports:
…the Pond Street Wegmans is the primary source of food for a significant number of people in a high poverty area, and in a quarter-mile radius of the store, almost a quarter of the population has no vehicle…
Richard Zalewski, a North Sider since the 1970s, has a vehicle, and two days after the Pond Street news broke, he drove to the chain’s corporate headquarters in Rochester to hand-deliver a letter of protest. He is especially worried about his neighbors without transportation.
“I really was upset enough to want to make a dramatic statement,” said Zalewski…
Zalewski, like some others interviewed for this story, does not buy the reason Wegmans is giving for shuttering Pond Street. He thinks the real issue is that the store, with is lower-income clientele, doesn’t fit the Wegmans corporate image. Zalewski says he will no longer shop at any Wegmans.
There have been endless news stories and letters to the editor and even a proposed law requiring the site to stay a grocery store. A Syracuse council member wrote an open letter to Wegmans:
Is denying immigrants, the elderly and the impoverished reasonable access to fresh foods the sort of difference you want to make in the community?
These are moral questions about your business culture.
Perhaps Rochesterians have more goodwill for our hometown grocer, so we’re more accepting when Wegmans abandons its city stores. Perhaps Rochesterians are more accepting of the suburbanization of our community. Perhaps Rochesterians are used to being disappointed by big business.
Syracuse will eventually learn there is life without Wegmans. PriceRite, Aldi and Tops have filled the void and are doing very well. And as Wegmans has often pointed out, the chain has a plethora of stores near the city…just over the border.
Update – Wegmans wrote a letter to the editor acknowledging the backlash.
– Tops is remodeling stores and adding gas stations. The company has a decidely different strategy than Wegmans.
– School #50 principal Tim Mains is up for the Albany superintendent job. Mains ran for mayor in 2005 and lost to Bob Duffy. We know how that story ended. He was a finalist for RCSD superintendent along with Jean-Claude Brizard. We know how that story ended. How would things in Rochester have been different if Mains ascended to either of those positions?
– New York’s dairy farmers are being left behind in the Greek yogurt boom. Chobani is forced to expand its operation in Idaho because it can’t get enough milk from New York farms.
– Rochester’s mayor has had a very quotable week. First, he complained MCC is treated the Damon Campus like it’s Afghanistan. Then he called his deputy mayor a “big boy.” His discussion of the Bug Jar in City Newspaper takes the cake and started a brief Twitter meme:
“There’s nothing wrong with being funky. There’s nothing wrong with being hip hop. It’s just, you can’t shoot each other.”