Whole Foods as Gentrification Bellwether

Whole Foods' newest store in Gowanus, Brooklyn is causing local vendors and artists to tread "a fine line" between reaching new customers and supporting what they think of as new, "big" development.
December 23, 2013, 5am PST | Alek Miller
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The discomfort that neighbors feel about the new Brooklyn Whole Foods continues a pattern of local resistance to the company's entrance into new markets. Whole Foods includes local products in its offerings, emphasizes environmentally friendlier building practices, and even contributes food to local schools. But, in several cities, its reputation as a predictor of neighborhood turnover has residents feeling nervous.

Elizabeth Greenspan explains, "Indeed, at a time when wealthier people are moving back to cities, and lower-income residents are getting displaced, debates about Whole Foods seem to double as debates over the very character of cities and their residents. Whole Foods rejects the idea that it targets neighborhoods primed for high-end development. 'People use us a gauge of the state of the community, and we don’t think that’s fair,' [Whole Foods spokesman, Michael] Sinatra said. But even John Mackey, the Whole Foods C.E.O., has acknowledged his company’s knack for identifying neighborhoods on the cusp of gentrification."  

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Published on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 in The New Yorker
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