Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Another Shopping Center

In this modern era of Environmental Consciousness, recycling is all the vogue. As it should be: Anything that can mitigate the effects of our wasteful American love of everything disposable is a Good Thing.

It’s not a new concept by any means. When I was a young Snot-Nose, soft drinks were sold in heavy glass bottles. You would bring back the empties when it came time to reload tour Soda-Pantry, and you would receive a deposit... something on the order of two cents a bottle. That was real money to a kid in those days when a bottle of Coke cost a thin dime. The bottles would be shipped back to the bottling company, where they would be cleaned and reused. There was a lot of transportation involved, but it made sense when fuel was three gallons for a dollar.

Stores like Whole Paycheck Foods make a big deal about their commitment to the environment. They sell reusable grocery bags, which patrons are encouraged to use in lieu of disposable plastic bags. And despite the fact that I spent years in the pay of the Great Corporate Salt Mine selling hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic to those selfsame folks who make those disposable bags, I’m all for the reusable bag. They’re sturdy, and they hold a metric shitload of groceries. If I could only remember to bring the Gawdforsaken things into the store with me.

Speaking of Whole Paycheck Foods, they’re building one just up the road from us, in a perfect spot to duke it out for the Upscale Foodie Dollar with Fresh Market and Trader Joe. It’s at a shopping center yclept Merchant’s Walk, an open-air mall sort of affair that was built in the late 1970’s and that was heavily renovated sometime back in the 1990’s. I guess commercial space of this type has a useful lifecycle of some 20-25 years, after which it needs to be torn down and built anew... which is exactly what Whole Foods is doing. Recycling on a grand scale, you could call it.

Great swaths of the former Merchant’s Walk have been leveled, razed to the ground, in order to accommodate the new Whole Foods and its peripherals. Where once was a (defunct) Media Play store and a branch of the county library now stands flat land festooned with mountains of Asphalt-Chunks, bricks, concrete, and other detritus. A Wachovia Bank branch was torn up and carted away... but not before another one was built 200 feet south of it.

Say what?

Yes: They built a new bank right next door to the old one, which they then tore down. Suddenly that doesn’t sound so “recycly” any more, does it?

It seems one of the provisions Whole Paycheck Foods insisted on when they agreed to fund this massive piece of reconstruction was that their store be visible from the street... and the old bank, situated on a slight rise, was blocking the view. The solution? Remove the bank and the hill it sat on.

According to the Whole Foods website, one of their corporate Core Values is “caring about our communities and our environment... We respect our environment and recycle, reuse, and reduce our waste wherever and whenever we can.” Perhaps... but am I the only one who mourns the loss of that little hill upon which the bank once sat?

They may sell pricey organic free-range broccoli and locally raised quail. They may sell delicate baby arugula that is picked as lovingly and as thoroughly as your pocket is picked at the checkout stand... but they’re Big Organic, and at the end of the day, their environmentalism rings just a tad hollow. Or am I just being cranky?

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