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Homeless and cardboard

Whole Foods Market is Latest to Taunt City Leaders

Grocer secretly believes “the impoverished” make the best customers.

News spread quickly — courtesy of media outlets and city leaders alike — that luxury grocery chain Whole Foods Market was contemplating the possibility taking up retail space in Detroit’s Midtown area.

The purveyor of organic products, nicknamed “Whole Paycheck,” currently has outlets in Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield and Troy. The addition of a Midtown location, retail analysts say, would be a good way to extend its well-heeled brand.

“It’s a panacea, that’s for sure,” said homeless man Alvin Warner, who hopes the posh retailer opens soon. “I’m hungry and can only imagine the delicacies I’ll find in the dumpster; this will be great for the city.”

It’s been nearly four years since Detroit’s last grocer, the now-defunct Farmer Jack, closed due to financial problems; but some don’t see that as a harbinger.

“Whole Foods seems like a no-brainer for Detroit,” said a former Lehman Brothers executive, who asked that his name be withheld until federal regulators got bored with him.

“I recommend Whole Foods spend millions in renovations,” the Lehman’s source said. “I’m sure those people will pay $4 for a half-gallon of organic milk.”

In fact, at a recent meeting of young professionals, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing virtually guaranteed the venture, implying Whole Foods was all but certain to move here.
“It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” Bing said, according to the front page of Crain’s Detroit Business.

Crain’s, by breaking the story on page 1, followed inside by 18 speculative paragraphs on how a really pricey market —serving less than 5 percent of the city’s residents could be a good thing — will likely put more pressure on the retailer.

Previous prognostications by city leaders and the media — including the renovation of the Michigan Central Station and a burgeoning retail district around Campus Martius — bode well for residents that this will come to pass.

When pressed for confirmation, representatives at Whole Foods would only acknowledge the company prides itself on charging outrageous prices for most food items.

“I hope having a market in the city nobody can afford means things are better than my pocketbook thinks,” said Shirley Price, a local activist. “If so, then I’m going to buy some Camembert cheese, truffles and organic flax seed oil.”  RT



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