Ithaca, N.Y. — What separates Ithaca from Syracuse could be the subject of a multi-part series, but what caught our eye this week was the cities’ differing reactions to the same news.
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On Wednesday, Syracuse.com’s Kevin Tampone reported that the national grocery chain Whole Foods is considering an expansion to a location in Upstate New York, including Syracuse.
The next day, we reported pretty much the same story — that Whole Foods was eyeing different Upstate New York locations, including Ithaca.
The reaction from the two publications’ readers, however, could scarcely have been more different.
— “Yes please”
— “It’s about time!”
— “Always excited to have another source for REAL food in Syracuse.”
— “Please bring whole foods. People who want to buy healthy conscious food need a place to shop. In my experience Whole Foods is the same price as wegmans, even cheaper with some things.”
— “No I do not want a whole foods store in Ithaca, we have so many food stores as it is and the big chains like Walmart and Target are expanding their food sections.”
— “Nooooooooooo! We need socially conscious businesses in Ithaca, ones that respect the rights of it’s employees, pays living wages and honors workers’ rights to organize.”
— “Huge multinational corporations have no place in a community that is trying its damnedest to be sustainable, independent, and locally focused.”
— “We absolutely do NOT need Whole Foods. I am very familiar with the SF Whole Foods and I do not believe they would be good for us.”
Now, to be fair, there were a few commenters in Syracuse criticizing Whole Foods, and a few commenters in Ithaca applauding it.
But if this unscientific overview is any indication, there’s a lot more support for the upscale, organic-centric grocery store in the Land of the Orange than the Land of the Big Red.
Why would that be? At first, it seems almost counter-intuitive: Wouldn’t Ithaca be more likely to embrace Whole Foods’ unsubtle appeal to Blue America?
There could be a number of other factors at work — differences in purchasing power; Ithaca’s greater emphasis on shopping locally; Syracuse’s dependence on driving.
My bet, though, is that it’s actually a good deal simpler than any of these explanations. Opposition to Whole Foods in Ithaca and the lack of opposition to it in Syracuse, I’d say, comes down to a single variable: The GreenStar Natural Foods Market.
With multiple locations in the city and a loyal customer base, GreenStar and its distinctively Ithaca charm likely sucks up all or most of shoppers who would otherwise welcome a Whole Foods.
I’ll let the commenters do the work again:
— “love Greenstar. They are us, they are OUR community. I enjoy Real Foods when I’m back in CA (when there is no other choice) but we need Greenstar, not a corporate model moving in on us.”
— “No way. Support Greenstar instead, go local. And even supporting Wegmans is more local (New York) than Whole Foods. Support our local economy first.”