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Food Opinions

Opinion: It’s Time We Talk About The Market

On the heels of an historic election in Virginia, it finally feels like the right time to have a hard conversation. 

The Blue Wave that swept Virginia’s House of Delegates and State Senate did so mainly riding the back of a progressive agenda. One that highlights the importance of a fair wage, equal access to health care, and pushing back against barriers of inequity that have haunted the Commonwealth for too long. 

This agenda is nothing new to the People of The Hill. When I committed to moving my family back into the city of Richmond from the homogeneity of the suburbs, no neighborhood embodied the ideals of diversity, inclusion, community, history and innovation better than Church Hill. 

I was blessed to be introduced to the work of The Robinson Theater, CHAT, Peter Paul and Blue Sky, all committed to bettering the lives and experiences of ALL the children of Church Hill. Before we moved I sat around bars, and coffee tables and front porches of friends that already lived in the area. I heard the conversations in community groups and newsletters, everyone focused on how to make this neighborhood, the shining beacon on the hill.

How Church Hill could be the place that would show Richmond how the past and future could meet, and blend, not break. 

I am proud to call Church Hill home, proud of the work happening to engage and enhance the East End. But, there is a much needed conversation we have all been shying away from. An opportunity to show Richmond, and the country at large, that what we do here works. That a community that values everyone’s contributions, then pools those resources and rises to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens, is not only possible, but profitable. 

Let’s talk about The Market @ 25th.  

The Market opened in March of this year to much fanfare. Hailed as a new opportunity for economic activism, and a much needed oasis in the food desert of the East End, I saw you all there the first few weeks. Taking pictures of the history wall, posting to your Instagram or Facebook from the Shalom Produce aisle, or Brewer’s Coffee cafe. We were all excited to be a part of something that was more than just a grocery store. 

But as the shine dimmed, and the reality of old habits set in, we have begun to revert to our old ways. Crossing over into Henrico to shop at Kroger or Walmart; Traveling to the West End or Carytown after work to visit Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods; convenience finds its way back into our daily lives and we are failing to hold up our end of the bargain. 

Richmond Free Press ran a piece recently waging bets against The Market.

It spoke of layoffs and profit margins, and misquoting the store’s operator, began signaling the failure of the experiment here in the East End. The Richmond Times Dispatch recently reported that the store is “losing millions”.

Let’s start with putting to bed the biggest of the misconceptions:

“The store is not going to close.  The investor, Steve Markel, is completely dedicated to the sustainability of our store and to the community.”

Norm Gold, Developer and Operator of The Market @ 25th

Norm and I spoke candidly about the situation at the market, and even with his promise that the store isn’t going anywhere, they still need our help. 

 “I will say, that for the store to flourish and continue to be a vital part of the community, it needs more support from the community.” 


What does that support look like? It is time to put your money where your mouth is. 

Richmonders overwhelmingly elected a democratic House of Legislators that promises a raise in minimum wage. The Market doesn’t need a law passed to make them pay people a living wage. According to Norm, “We start all staff, other than baggers, at $12 an hour. Salaries go up from there, depending on experience. We are very competitive with all other grocery retailers, and higher than many.  Our goal was to offer a living wage to our team members to help them become self-sufficient, and we have been very successful here. Most of our team have now been able to stabilize their families and in many cases, procure homes, cars, and other essentials.” 

Let’s compare that to other options around the area that may be getting your monthly grocery budget.

Per Indeed, Average Kroger Stores hourly pay ranges from approximately $8.52 per hour for Cashier/Bagger. While we might enjoy the convenience of ordering shelf stable items straight to our door, Amazon disclosed  that the median pay for its employees was just $28,446 in 2017. That number has risen some since their announcement of a $15 an hour rate for all employees, bumping the median salary up to $35,000 a year, but, that still doesn’t translate to much of a work life balance for many of their workers. One spoke to the New York Times in 2018 and reported having to pee in bottles on shift to avoid losing productivity time on a bathroom break. Whole Foods, now an Amazon company, doesn’t fare much better with an average starting salary of $10 per hour, again per Indeed.

Glassdoor, US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Labor, Cornerstone Capital Group

While we are talking about Whole Foods, it should be important to note that CNBC reports, as of January 2020 almost two thousand workers will lose their health care. 

Virginians statewide rallied for an expansion of Medicaid, the votes prove that. I’ve driven the neighborhood and seen Warren and Bernie signs going up, both candidates who are pushing for Medicare for all. Yet we are still supporting corporations that forgo their employees’ health for the bottom line.

Walmart has made several big announcements regarding their new health care programs for workers over the last few months. Sadly, those changes will not affect over half of their workforce that is part time. A study from UC Berkeley shows that $153 Billion a year is spent to subsidize minimum wage employees at places like Walmart through SNAP and Medicaid benefits. 

The Market offers all employees access to Health Care.

Norm stated, “All full timers are offered health insurance (medical, dental, vision, short term and long term disability, and life insurance).  Part timers are also given the opportunity to sign up for health insurance.” 

Norm adds, they are also looking to their employees future. “All workers are offered 401k and there is a company match.” 

The investment isn’t solely monetary.

At CHPN we have covered the unique opportunities that The Market is offering employees. Norm spoke a bit about how things began with their team.

“From the beginning, our goal has been to hire local. To affording them opportunities that other employers do not, including those with criminal backgrounds.   Partnering with Caritas, we provided them life skills/ professional development training before they started in the store. Each team member was paid for this training. We wanted to give them all the skills needed to become successful and self-sufficient whether it is at our store, or beyond if they decide to move to another career. Typical grocery retailers, and most other employers, don’t invest as much in their employees.  We are committed to helping them improve their lives. This dedication has created a very strong team atmosphere. The best culture, best customer service of any grocer in Richmond. (And, yes, I am confident in that statement and have been told so by many experts)” 

Church Hill is a progressive community. We value workers’ rights, a fair wage, health care; and we are failing to support a store right here that is living those values. 

It is time for us to step up. 

I asked Norm what needs to change for The Market to be successful: 

 ” A store’s success is predicated by volume and most importantly, customer count. Our customer count is low and has not increased.  The community has clamored for a grocery store in this area for decades. Now that it is here, they really need to turn out, change their shopping habits and shop in our store.  They need to understand that this means understanding that we are not a WalMart and cannot compete with their prices. But can be, and are very comparable.”

The convenience of our store, the services we offer, the dedication to staff, vendors, and community should be, must be enough to gain the support of all those in our community. No matter diversity, income, or age.   We need that support to continue the level of services we currently offer.  The Market doesn’t want to become just another grocery store. We want to continue to be a true community, local, mission based and driven market, and our success will be vital to the East End.”

Norm and the Market are open to suggestions. Found something cheaper somewhere else? Tell them. Are they not carrying your favorite brand of cereal? There are forms to fill out to request items to be stocked.  

The Market has recently launched their Members Rewards program and also are offering discounts to seniors, military, students/teachers and more. 

They are doing their part to try to make this store work for our community. Are you doing yours? 

People of the Hill, Where are you spending your money?  And more importantly, who are you supporting with those dollars? 

By

Megan Rickman-Blackwood


Note from the Editors: This is a part of a series of articles about The Market at 25th and how our involvement with it affects the store and the community. What’s the other side of the coin? Is this more than returning to old habits? Could the reason you’re not shopping there be that the store trying to be too many things to too many people? Is there an environmental factor? Where is the delivery option for those who use Instacart? Is there a perception problem like this article from Bacon’s Rebellion alludes to?

Let’s start having the hard conversations. Comment your thoughts.

How can The Market at 25th  follow up with the community to figure out what works and what doesn’t?

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Alex Goodmundson
Alex Goodmundson
9 months ago

We will support the store more often and I hope others do too

Ryan Herndon
Ryan Herndon
9 months ago

Bitch about wanting a grocery forever and then don’t use it.. Kudos Church Hill

Shannon Hocutt
Shannon Hocutt
9 months ago

I use “but im supporting the community” as my justification for buying the expensive sushi when I have a craving. Last time, they had fresh bread pudding as well. ?

Kathi Sanders
Kathi Sanders
9 months ago

I went for the first time last week. I think we all get used to doing things a certain way and it’s hard to start a new routine. They don’t carry everything I need but I can use them at least once a week and lessen my trips to Publix. I do think that the construction around there makes it more difficult to access the parking lot.

Debi Jones
Debi Jones
9 months ago

Always go there. The prices are higher than most but you can find some pretty good prices on meats and other things if you shop smart. Customer service is great.

Renate Duggan Morehouse
Renate Duggan Morehouse
9 months ago

I love this store. We shop there several times a week.

Urban Set Bride
Urban Set Bride
9 months ago

I needed this gut check. I own a business where people are happy to spend a little more to support something local that gives back to its community, and I need to stop being lazy and going to Lidl and Publix. It’s not the perfect grocery store but it’s worth paying a little more (if you can) to support the employees and keep the money in our neighborhood.

Adams Joshua
Adams Joshua
9 months ago

I understand supporting the community but in the era you have to be competitive with the competition. We are in the mist of “grocery store wars” where each grocery is offering something the other doesn’t. In this era the market on 25th isn’t really setting itself apart from the Kroger’s and Publix. In addition the prices are more so it loses whatever competitive edge it may have had because of prices.

Eric Dunn
Eric Dunn
9 months ago

I shop there pretty regularly and wasn’t aware the store was having these problems. For me, it’s really been an issue of proximity; I live at 30th & Leigh and it’s closer than Farm Fresh (not to mention cleaner and less crowded)–though reading that they pay everyone living wages and have a decent health care plan gives me good reasons to keep going back.

Shirley Lee
Shirley Lee
9 months ago

I went there for smoothie/coffee couple times but the coffee shop was not open, I also went there trying to get sparking water (no flavor added) and kimchi. Nothing found so I left. I have noticed Farm Fresh start to carry some better brands like Stumptown coffee since last year. Kinda surprise.

Chris Dosier
Chris Dosier
9 months ago

And not to get too political, but maybe you’re proving the criticism of some of the liberal policies correct that you cite in your article. Fact of the matter is, you have to attract customers with a compelling value proposition in order to induce a change in shopping behavior before implementing your social agenda and blaming others for it’s costs.

Chris Dosier
Chris Dosier
9 months ago

It’s a mismatch of market needs, location and the offering of the grocery store. People to the south will just go to Farm Fresh (if in a pinch since their prices are high, otherwise they’ll probably drive to the Kroger on Lombardy or Walmart on Nine Mile), people to the North will go to Food Lion on 360, people to the east to Walmart on Nine Mile. That just leaves people who can’t really commute as their customer base, and most of those people probably just shop at Family Dollar as people are creatures of habit and Family Dollar is… Read more »

Vic Rejuney
Vic Rejuney
9 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Herndon

i mean it’s been there for a long time, it’s been used. it’s just super expensive and not everyone in the community has the money to afford it. that’s the problem. there is food there, but because of its price, it is still not accessible to many.

Donna Carter
Donna Carter
9 months ago

I love the Market. I don’t do a lot of grocery shopping so I can only do a little. I was very impressed with the price of bread and eggs! Like all stores, you have to look around and pay attention to specials. At most stores I will use the self checkout but it is such a pleasure to interact with the people working there that I don’t use the self checkout.

Kelly Weber
Kelly Weber
9 months ago

I am a teacher in the neighborhood and I have seen first-hand that The Market at 25th is literally changing the lives of my students and their families. I love seeing parents and grandparents of my students who are employed at the Market. Have you noticed how kind and outgoing the cashiers and other employees are? They are amazing people, and I usually leave smiling because of something one of them said! I love seeing how this opportunity to work at the Market has given new joy, confidence, and security to families that I have known for years. Really! I’m… Read more »

The U.....nion Hill
The U.....nion Hill
9 months ago

This store is a charity and not an actual business. The owners are free to run a social experiment, but I’m not going to be guilt tripped into supporting their unsustainable fantasy.

I.b.
I.b.
9 months ago

My fear is that there are some in the area just waiting for the market to fail.

Kate Barnes
Kate Barnes
9 months ago

Paying an extra dollar here and there for groceries is nothing to my family when it means supporting our neighbors who DON’T have that extra buck. I roll my eyes at the people unhappy about any upcharge, considering the gentrification happening in church hill. So many of us CAN afford it. The money isn’t the issue. It breaks my heart to know the market is struggling – it is a wonderful place that offers so much to those who need it. I love the kind employees that know my kids and, for goodness sake, will keep them entertained as I… Read more »

Hester Bradshaw
Hester Bradshaw
9 months ago

Supposedly, this store was built for people living in a ‘food desert’ – are they supporting it? Statistics?? I have no intention of being guilted into supporting a charity simply because I live nearby or because of the progressive election win.

Kate Barnes
Kate Barnes
9 months ago

Urban Set Bride I just drove past your shop this afternoon and wished I knew you in 2014 when I got married! ? #shoplocal

Dana Bagby
Dana Bagby
9 months ago

Im wondering whether location and approach may be a bit awkward for many.

Rachel Davis
Rachel Davis
9 months ago

We’ve been lazy. We are going to break our habits and start supporting the Market at 25th.

Heather Boylan Drew
Heather Boylan Drew
9 months ago
Reply to  Adams Joshua

It is bigger than Kroger in its mission and vision to lift up and support our conmunity on many levels.

Emily Klinedinst
Emily Klinedinst
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

I live very close, too, and I think prices have improved somewhat since opening, but it’s still more expensive. I like the store and want them to stick around, but I’m on a fixed income here so I can’t really afford to ‘support’ a store I can’t afford.
They also said in the initial publicity blitz they’d have delivery, which as a disabled person I have been looking forward to, as grocery shopping can be an ordeal for me.
We’ll see if these 2 factors improve soon.

Ryan Herndon
Ryan Herndon
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

Chris, too late… You got too political. Don’t break an arm jerking yourself off.

Ryan Herndon
Ryan Herndon
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

Chris, let me guess… Trickle down economics still work though? ?

Ryan Herndon
Ryan Herndon
9 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Herndon

Vic it’s only been there since March… And the article states people are opting for Traders Joes and Fresh Market as much as Kroger.

Chris Dosier
Chris Dosier
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

Ryan Feel free to give me an example of a low margin, small business with an ill-defined or misunderstood customer base like the one in this article that can pay it’s workers more than market rates. This article was overtly political and cited their political agenda as the reason to why the store should be supported. Guess I’m an asshole for understanding basic economics and pointing out that the social agenda should come 2nd to actually having a profitable business.

Paul Hammond
Paul Hammond
9 months ago

Many of the people who don’t have that extra dollar will find a way to Walmart where they can afford to shop.

Teresa Nieding Carrel
Teresa Nieding Carrel
9 months ago
Reply to  Shannon Hocutt

That bread pudding is good!

Urban Set Bride
Urban Set Bride
9 months ago

Kate Barnes we had just opened up then, so we probably just missed you! If you ever have extra money laying around for a vow renewal, we got you! ?

Roy S Drake Jr
Roy S Drake Jr
9 months ago

Thanks for sharing. I’ve been wanting to go, but haven’t. Looking forward to going this evening or tomorrow morning.

Kate Barnes
Kate Barnes
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

All of the services they offer to their employees and the community as a whole ARE a compelling value proposition. Lol. ?

HW Benjamin
HW Benjamin
9 months ago
Reply to  Adams Joshua

Sometimes it isn’t all about the price. For many, the prices are reasonable depending on one’s needs. Of course some prices may seem exorbitant, yet the difference elsewhere isn’t worth the trip to save a dollar.

HW Benjamin
HW Benjamin
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

One model is, you can walk there and get everything there rather than driving to West End. Another is supporting their mission to create jobs, and supply fresh veggies, fruits, ham-hocks, sushi, all under one roof. And Mickey’s forties if you need/want.

HW Benjamin
HW Benjamin
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

Chris Dosier I’m guessing you answered your own question. That’s how McDonald’s started, in case you too young to know.

HW Benjamin
HW Benjamin
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Hammond

Obviously you don’t live anywhere near the Market, and, works for Walmart and shops at Whole Foods. Correct?

YMS
YMS
9 months ago

IDK, I hate the parking lot, actually witness someone backing up hitting another car then leaving. Also I know this is a cultural thing, but why on earth are chitterlings in the deli on the hottest days of the Year …if at all? Are you supposed to eat ( which I don’t)them then go next door to the HUB and get your blood pressure checked? Went back, because I do like the greens there and it was pig feet and chitterlings? WTH? Cater to the demographic , don’t kill them. Cashiers are always very nice. Good place to pick up… Read more »

Paul Hammond
Paul Hammond
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Hammond

Not obvious at all. I’ve lived downtown for twenty years with a brief stint near chimborazo. I also work nearby. The point is this doesn’t help people who can’t afford to shop there.

Paul Hammond
Paul Hammond
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Hammond

P. S. I shop at Aldis.

Jennifer Taylor
Jennifer Taylor
9 months ago

This is symptomatic of what is going on In Church Hill. I purchased my home in North Church Hill in July 2018. I was fortunate enough to find a great home for under 300K which fit my budget. At the time there were 3 abandoned homes on the block. Fast forward a year and my property taxes were re assessed at 100k higher which has created a deficit in my escrow and a pmt of $250 a month extra in my mortgage which I did not plan for. Not to mention that the abandoned homes have been rebuilt and sold… Read more »

Jennifer Taylor
Jennifer Taylor
9 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Herndon

Preach

Dan McGrath
Dan McGrath
9 months ago

HW Benjamin, Is it really fair to use McDonald’s as a comparison? Your statement implies you are old enough to recall that in the era when McDonald’s was started towns and cities were flooded with small sandwich shops, burger joints, chilli parlors, etc. To point out a major success that went on to dominate the food sector without noting the thousands of similar businesses that went under (likely from being unable to adapt their business plans to the market realities) seems less than fair when responding to the original point made by Chris. By no means was McDonald’s customer pool… Read more »

Juliellen Sarver
Juliellen Sarver
9 months ago

For those of you who say it’s too expensive for the people who need it most—have you even been there? I did a comparison shopping trip a few months ago. For the same items, Kroger was cheapest, Market at 25th was second and Food Lion came in highest. I do not go to Public because it IS actually quite expensive.

Plus, produce is discounted for EBT customers. Isn’t that what everyone has been yelling about?? Use it or lose it.

Kay Christensen
Kay Christensen
9 months ago

The Market seems to be trying to be all things- to all people. With the square footage of this store- that strategy won’t work. I shopped there a few times but ultimately left disappointed with the offering. I prefer Publix or Wegmans and don’t mind travelling to get what I want. The Market has no appeal to me. I prefer quality cuts of meat, high quality and nutritious prepared foods (this doesn’t include fried chicken and macaroni and cheese), a wide variety of organics, etc. The Market would be wise to stick to their core mission of providing greater food… Read more »

Chris
Chris
9 months ago

Progressive ideas? Who is writing this nonsense? Let me know when your “progressive ideas” can fix the crime in those Democrat strongholds like Gilpin Court and all those other crime infested public housing. Nothing prevents you from access to health care lib, it’s just that you want someone else to pay for it. Funny how Democrats can only win with the welfare voters, and trust me, they aren’t progressive in the least bit.

Roy S Drake Jr
Roy S Drake Jr
9 months ago

I went today for the first time. It is a really nice store. And everyone was extremely friendly. They were doing food and beverage tastings. And I agree the prices were not bad at all. Lots of items were on sale. I bought about $40 worth of items and will go back mid week to get a few more things. I’m a fan.

Church Hill People's News
Church Hill People's News
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

Chris Dosier They have incredibly cheap groceries and other things that are high end. Just depends on if you’re willing to look for a deal. You can buy a dozen eggs for 80 cents or organic free range eggs for $5.

Emily Klinedinst
Emily Klinedinst
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Dosier

The free range eggs are $8 by the way, well above the norm.

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