Sunday, November 4, 2012

The High Price of a Healthy Hood

My beloved local grocery store Yes! Organic is closing in December 2012. I stopped in to verify with my own eyes the empty shelves and befuddled faces of the employees.
Empty Freezer in Yes! Organic
The local newsmagazine Hill Rag confirmed the closing, citing low sales as the cause. Yes! Organic owner, Gary Cha added,

“We truly wanted to be the first store to provide healthy options,”... “We tried to do this for two years, but we can’t do this for much longer.”

Many residents complained of the high prices, when compared to the ever-present Safeway. Others pointed out that the store was premature and rushed. Our community wasn't ready for it.  I agree that the prices were high, but I paid for convenience and atmosphere. I loved walking 5 minutes from my house for organic lentils and aloe vera gel. Yes! Organic represented possibilities and progression for my neighborhood. But I am just one person. If the community does not want or support the business, then these services cannot stay afloat. 

 The cost to rent commercial property in DC increases yearly. This eliminates any potential for small businesses who need a return on your investment within the first year. In my pursuit to open a yoga studio, I have run into many financial roadblocks, the biggest one being RENT MONEY!

 I have walked the main streets of Good Hope Road, Minnesota Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr seeking an opportunity to rent a temporary yoga space. Each time, I hear the same responses: start up funds are hard to find, investments are scarce and there is little data to predict consumer behavior.

But Southeast DC is not the only hood experiencing a loss in healthy food options. Last month Java Green, located in the heart of bustling K Street NW shut its doors. The Vegetable Garden in Rockville has a "For Lease" sign hanging on the windows. This got me to start thinking about how to keep a healthy business open in a world hooked on hamburgers.

What will it take for a healthy eating establishment to stay afloat in a cash-strapped culture?



Alexis said...

That's horrible news!

Ziggy Law said...

wow, I did not even know!! OMG I go there all the time

POConscious said...

This was such hard news to hear. And it affects other local entrepreneurs that sell their goods in Yes! I'm reallly concerned that as Walmart inches in, opportunities will really be lost to intervene in the plasticization of food in Black communities. Furthermore, Safeway doesn't defy food desert standards--- when I went there to prepare for Sandy, I immediately regretted it. The health bars are near or past expiration. Juices are 15 to 25% more than they are at Whole Foods and organic options ( which bring chemical free taste better and are more enriching to your diet) are non-existent. I want more for the community than settling for big box sales pushing us to make hard choices between our livelihoods abd our vitality.

Sariane Leigh said...

POConscious yeah this is frustrating. Especially when there is so much talk about food equality in DC. I am ready for action. There is a big discussion happening on December 8, 2012 sponsored by HAFA