Friday, March 21, 2008

Waiting For A Fresh & Easy Grocery Store (and Much Else) in a Struggling Oakland, California Neighborhood Where the Mayor Was Raised But Never Visits

As we reported here some months ago, Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has signed leases for an initial 18 sites for it's small-format grocery stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. The stores are set to start opening either at the end of this year or in early 2009. [Read a selection of our Tesco Fresh & Easy Northern California coverage and analysis here.]

We've also reported Tesco plans to make the Bay Area city of Oakland its beachhead from which it will launch its Bay Area invasion with its 10,000 square foot combination basic grocery and fresh and specialty grocery markets starting at the end of this year or in early 2009. Tesco plans to open at least an initial four -to- five Fresh & Easy stores in Oakland, including stores in at least two low-income neighborhoods which are underserved by grocery stores in the city of 450,000.

One of those neighborhoods where Tesco will open a Fresh & Easy grocery store is called "Lower Bottoms," in West Oakland. Among the neighborhood's claims to fame, is that it's the boyhood home of the city's current mayor, Ron Dellums, who also served as Oakland's U.S. Congressman for over two decades, before retiring a few years ago.

Dellums, who is in his seventies, was elected mayor of Oakland last year despite having initial difficulty even deciding if he wanted to run for the job. He ended up running only after what amounted to a "draft Dellums" movement was formed.

The mayor's tenure thus far has been rocky to say the least. One newspaper columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who writes about Oakland and the East Bay Area where the city is located, calls Dellum's 'The Missing Mayor' do to the fact he is seen so infrequently in the city's neighborhoods.

One of Tesco's strategies with its Fresh & Easy small-format grocery stores in the Western U.S. is to "go where no other grocery chain will go," so to speak. In other words, Tesco says a major element of its strategy with Fresh & Easy is to open stores in places like West Oakland's "Lower Bottoms" neighborhood, which are undererved by grocery stores offering a decent selection of groceries and fresh foods at reasonable prices. Tesco's Fresh & Easy calls this its "food desert" strategy. Food deserts are these food store deprived, generally lower income urban neighborhoods.

The essay linked below is by writer Tim Holt, and was published in today's San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. Holt writes about the history, culture, present and future of West Oakland's "Lower Bottoms" neighborhood, where one of the Oakland Fresh & Easy grocery stores will be located soon.

It's always good for a retailer to learn about the local neighborhoods it plans on doing business in for many reasons.

Among the most important of these reasons is that just as the first step in learning about a new culture or society requires a person to do lots of background search, and to approach that search without bias, so it is key for a retailer to know the neighborhoods its stores are in so that it can reflect the given neighborhood's history, culture, present and future elements in it's stores. Mr. Holt's well-written piece provides a vivid picture of one of those neighborhoods.

The essay's lede is printed below, with a link to the entire piece in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine

Waiting for Dellums
One Oakland neighborhood's self-improvement plan and why residents would still like a visit from its most famous former resident
Tim Holt: San Francisco Chronicle Magazine
Friday, March 21, 2008

The neighbors are huddled together in the wan light of a street lamp at the corner of 10th and Wood in West Oakland. They're here on this chilly winter evening, as they are most Friday evenings, warding off the cold with thermoses of hot chocolate and the comfort of each others presence. It's a neighborhood of stately trees and crumbling victorians. It's one of the oldest neighborhoods in Oakland, steeped in railroad history. The corner where these folks are gathered is a half dozen blocks from the old Southern Pacific passenger station, now an abandoned brick building. Three blocks from here on 7th Street, labor organizer C.L Dellums ran the western outpost of the brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. His nephew, Ron Dellums, grew up two houses down from this corner.

No comments: