The needler in the haystack.

Monday, July 26, 2010

C-Town supermarket touches a nerve

Nothing in
Plainfield is ever as simple as it seems.

Sunday's BUSINESS STORY about the new C-Town supermarket (story and comments here) and how it would stack up against it's nearest competitor,the Fanwood A&P, snagged 15 comments so far, quite a record for a hot summer weekend when folks could have been 'down the Shore' or enjoying some other form of clean, wholesome fun other than commenting on blog posts.

While I was thinking about the gamble ($1 million? more?) the owners took on opening a supermarket in Plainfield, a mile from another, longtime regional player (A&P), readers had other things on their mind.

Like the hours (it's only open 'til 8:00 PM), that it can't offer beer (which the A&P can, thanks to a grandfathered license -- which the Plainfield A&P also had, but sold to the South Avenue liquor store by PNC), and perceptions that prices are high and it won't be kept clean for long. (I'll be doing a price comparison later.)

But the most heat was generated around an anonymous comment that 'none of the employees "look" like the community being served'.

I have to admit I don't know what exactly the person meant, but it didn't seem good on the face of it -- which is how other commenters also saw it.

What kind of employees were they expecting?

Evidently there is at least ONE Plainfield Today reader who is very uncomfortable with anyone not just exactly like them. That's their right, I guess, but do they have to whine all the time about it? Other readers don't think so, evidently.

Which brings us to the matter of 'diversity' and Plainfield's 'changing demographics'.

Plainfield, as many other New Jersey (and East Coast) communities is experiencing a growing Latino population. It has been obvious to careful observers for years. The schools are the clearest barometer, and in a few short years the high school will reflect it with a 50% or more Latino enrollment.

Those who pine for folks 'just like themselves' would do well to ponder the Latino products in the cooler cases at the rear of the Times Market. Store owners don't stock products that don't sell.

Concerning butcher counters. They are an added overhead, as opposed to just putting out shrink-wrapped meats. My point is that butcher counters disappeared from supermarkets (except for high end stores) because they could foist shrink-wrapped meat on suburban customers. The Latino market is far more interested in this kind of service, and smart marketers offer it.

As for the idea that the Council somehow was involved in 'considering' the franchisee for the site, I am puzzled. It's a private business, in a privately-owned building -- which by the way was vacant for quite a while -- and a use that previously existed there (it was once a Foodtown before Royal Dutch Ahold bought that chain and merged its stores into the Stop & Shops). Why would it have been anything more than a routine landlord-tenant deal, with the exception of construction officials having to certify any work performed?

Is a thriving South Avenue shopping scene good for Plainfield? If not, you need to explain to me why.

Are Latinos and other newcomers (including the increasing numbers of Muslims and others I see) going to be important in the Queen City's remaking of itself?
If not, you need to explain to me why.

Like everything else in life, Plainfield is constantly changing.

What is, is.

Or, as that girl-next-door-who-looks-like-me once sang, 'Qué será, será'.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

I don't care that they LOOK like Plainfield, I care that the employees ARE from Plainfield.

Anonymous said...

Private companies have to be held to Affirmative Action laws too. I am African and when I go into a store I do expect people to look like me. There are people from the a wide range of the African Diaspera who eat avecados, mangos, fresh meat and so forth; the response about who I would expect to work in a chinese food store that is in a diverse community -- the answer is a DIVERSE Employee base. That means EVERYBODY not just SOME Bodies. White store owners of a large department store (we are not talking MOM &POP here so don't go off on a tangent)in a predominately white neighborhood cannot legally hire all white people so why should other ethnicities be allowed to do it?

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with the changing issue is,the "Latino" community does not try to be "inclusive" to Non Latinos. It is very difficult to patronize establishments where the employees speak little to no English. I am not bi-lingual. I tried shopping @ Suprememo, and could not communicate with the workers especially the cashiers. That tells me my business is not needed in order for theirs to thrive. It is the reverse with English speaking businesses. They go out of their way to accommodate the "Latino" community. They make sure they are able to communicate in both English and Spanish.

Anonymous said...

My experience at the Fanwood A & P is that they employ a number of Plainfielders. I have often responded to comments among young check out workers - finding out that they are Plainfield HS students working part-time at the A & P. I don't like that A & P because of problems with lines at check out and discourteous checkers (not the young folks, interesting enough). There was a nasty oler woman a few years ago and I refused to get in her "line" no matter how short it was.

Yes I Said It! said...

Replying to yesterday's comment:

"This store, like Supremo and all the other urban supermarkets caters to the spanish speaking community. I will continue to shop where I always shop, even if it means I pay more.
I am tired of feeling like a foreigner in my own country!!!!

July 25, 2010 9:30 AM"

In case you didn't notice -the Spanish community is growing rapidly in Plainfield. One of my daughters had a Kindergarten commencement exercise at Evergreen and the ceremony was in Spanish and English. My other daughter goes to pre-school and she was the only non-hispanic student in her particular class.

C-Town caters to THE COMMUNITY. I don't remember seeing a sign saying "FOR HISPANICS ONLY"!

And . . . "foreigner in your own country"? Unless you are a Native American -this is not YOUR country.

I am hoping the Latinos/Hispanics become more active in the political arena and VOTE! Oh yeah . . .

!Si' pueden!

Jackie said...

I shop at Supremo. I only have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish and have had no issues. I have noted that the hiring signs there list bilingual as a requirement. That alone tends to limit the diversity some, but isn't illegal. It also means that their workers must understand English.

I generally expect that a Chinese restaurant will usually be filled with Chinese workers wherever it's located. But maybe that's just me.

As long as I'm treated with respect as a customer at a business, I really don't care what race, color, creed, nationality, etc. the workers are.

It's a changing world and Plainfield is part of it. I will admit that I sometimes feel limited to really knowing some folks in town due to the language barriers. However, they're more likely to learn English than I am to become fluent in Spanish. Yet, I haven't had any problems communicating in stores like Supremo.

Anonymous said...

I made my first trip to the store this morning. At least half of the pre-made salad packages on the shelf were expired. The woman at the deli counter had a hard time understanding english. The meat selection was narrow, only 80% lean ground beef.
Can't comment on prices as I don't pay that much attention to be able to compare.
Based on location I will probably give it another try, but first impression was not good.

Rob said...

In a nutshell... I will say this... I don't care if you have 3 eyes and 2 heads if the supermarket where you work is clean, has product that isn't expired, good friendly help, decent prices and doesn't SMELL.
I am from Upstate NY where it's WONDER BREAD for "people" so upon moving here the first thing I basked in was the DIVERSITY of the Metro NYC/NJ region. It was a breath of fresh it Hispanic/Latino/Black/European Whites/Asian/South Asian/Samoan/East Indian...what have you... I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU OR MYSELF LOOK LIKE. It could be a Kosher Deli run by Black Muslims from Turkey who speak Spanish for all I care...give me good service, good products, good prices and NO SMELL and I am there...
And I hate to disagree with "YES, I said it..", but the "Native Americans" moved here to over the Bering Straits land bridge..they were imports just like the rest of us, just a bit earlier...

Yep I Said It! said...

Hi Rob -

a lil more information than this blog needs regarding the Native Americans, but also, a lil more information than I knew. Very interesting indeed.

However -I don't think they killed any humans or races while settling in this part of the globe.

: )