Is Corporate America Pushing Out Small Food Businesses?
Lisa asked me to watch a video of Houston's Rawfully Organic Food Co-op owner where the gal expresses her deep sadness and grief of closing her business after eleven years. That was the largest food co-op in all of Texas (some claim of entire country) and supported many local farms and gardeners. . You can watch her video on You Tube.
Anyhow, she makes mention of large corporations pushing out small businesses of the food industry. Apparently that's her reason for closing her business but she doesn't mention anything more specific than that. However, shortly after her announcement Amazon now owns Whole Foods Grocery Store conglomerate. We did a bit of our own research and weren't too surprised to learn that a large corporation's brute force buying power of massive quantities drives the per unit price down excessively low. In the conventional food world is where that started but when folks learned about the harmful effects of pesticides, herbicides and gmo's organic farmers and gardeners have been able to provide a much needed local food source while being able to earn a living at it.
So much of online shopping and its' impact on so called "brick and mortar" retail stores that it's become a mundane topic with folks learning to simply accept the overall convenience. When you think of shopping online the first word that comes to mind is Amazon. So, what kind of changes are going to be made at the newly owned Whole Foods chain? Online grocery shopping has been available for years, that is nothing new. In fact some small local food co-ops offer online ordering of produce shares but when you consider just what sort of possibilities exist in the future of getting organically grown produce from an online power house such as Amazon, well I don't have that kind of an imagination. And it certainly doesn't mean that our store is considering an online shopping cart for ordering produce shares as a means of keeping up with technology. That having been said, here's a quote from a CNN story about retail stores closing which ran back in April.
"Physical store fronts have been eclipsed by ecommerce masters like Amazon. The toll it's taken can be seen in emptying malls and shopping centers across the country."
I'm not interested in notions of becoming an alarmist as there's other information to be considered. Much more. However, if you want to read further about the potential of Amazon's influence on everyday life here's a very good (if disconcerting) related story from The New Yorker Magazine.
We've all become used to the term "global economy" even if it does seem a bit daunting or intimidating considering what changes might take place in the years to come. However, there is substantial proof that there are some things working against their notions of "taking over".
Whole Foods was busted for several naughty mistakes the most glaring being false labeling, importing from China, selling gmo products which they claimed were not and other nonsense. It's no wonder they sold out. All this information can be found online (one of the perks of technology) so how much of those mistakes will be ratified by Amazon's take over?Like I said I don't have that type of imagination and it's not my job to accuse all those folks of being criminally fraudulent. But what we do know and understand by working with local organic farmers and gardeners is that it's is often extremely difficult if not impossible to meet all the criteria of USDA Certified Organic labeling. Not to mention it is extremely expensive. So, the long and the short of it all is here's a bit of good news for folks who like bad news, you know who you are : ) When you shop from a local, reputable supplier of organic produce such as your local food co-op provided by our store you know you are getting products and services that meet standards of integrity and loyalty with due diligence. And sometimes, that's better than saving a few bucks by shopping online particularly if you have severe food allergies and or want the best quality nutritional foods for you and your family.
One more final note about Amazon and online shopping. We have done some preliminary research and found that there are some items or products simply not available for example gluten free herbal tinctures and a few other specialty items. With all that's been discussed here we don't take issue with selling products via Amazon especially when we and a potential new customer could benefit. We are all so proud of the business we have built over the past six to seven years and you, our customer reading this can be too. Consider supporting our GoFundMe Campaign and hope y'all are enjoying your summer and have a safe and happy Fourth!
We just wanted to let our fund raising supporters know how much we appreciate their contributions and show how we have put some of those funds to use. For example, before we could expand our options of dry goods inventory we needed more glass storage containers as well as additional shelving. This was something we wanted to do when we first opened at was once our "new" location. With repeated requests of folks looking for some items we didn't have in stock, we listened and now have some if not all of those items available now. Photo above is of our new jars and shelving.
Of course some of the items we needed had to do with meeting our own efficiency needs. Items such as the set of stainless steel shelves in our "behind the scenes" food prep area allowed us to expand the cafe kitchen space and meet some new health inspector requirements.
This has been a challenging time for us since acquiring the former juice bar facility both financially and trying to figure out just what to do with the acquired service kitchen space.
Fortunately Lisa and Toni have joined efforts to formulate diverse menu options which are as delicious as they are nutritious. Whether you're interested in a cool refreshing smoothie bowl, a packaged meal to take with you or order a meal made on request which can be enjoyed in our newly expanded seating area. That brings us to the next item in the form of what folks have dubbed a "mini farm table" complete with custom made benches all constructed mainly of pallet wood and other recycled materials that Jeff found lying around his shop. So, how much of the fundraising money went toward the purchase of this little gem of an item? Zilch, nada, nothing. We had to cover some bills and pay staff so I didn't request that we replenish supplies used from my shop such as lacquer, sandpaper, etc. Instead, we used some of the donated funds for a farmer's market table. Yep, I needed a break from sanding pallet wood. : )
Some shelving has since been added to accommodate our new amount of product being supplied by three additional farmers.
Although frustrated by having to postpone the bike tour aspect of our fundraising and reschedule other summer events due to unplanned family obligations we're very pleased to see how folks are lending their support and products as we move forward with our expanding efforts.
We hope y'all are enjoying your summer with family and friends, come for a visit and check out how we have put your support to work for you!
After a few weeks of promoting our Store's Fund Raiser where you can "read all about it" : ) and receiving much support from loyal customers and friends we decided it was a good time to get a blog post added to our site.
Last week was a bit hectic at our store with some plumbing repairs, training and welcoming our new manager Robby, Toni's fender bender in Houston who came in the very next day to create menu board (above photo) and Jeff getting the new pallet wood table and benches for much needed additional cafe seating. Now that the dust from those projects and minor mishaps has (for the most part) settled and cleared we're beginning to feel excited for our store's new potential.
Fortunately, we're not alone in our enthusiasm for the cafe. Houston Press freelance writer Jennifer Fuller found our store while visiting League City Park and decided to write this feature article for us. It was a big help in getting our cafe promoted and we were able to experience a potential for just how successful the cafe will be. A couple of weeks later Jeff received an email from a Voyage Houston staff member who wanted to do a story about Bike Tourings' photography. Jeff pitched them a story about our store and cafe and a second article was featured.
As excited as we are about our vegan cafe we have significant decrease in the number of produce shares being ordered. This is most likely due in large part to the expanded variety and availability of organic produce at the much larger supermarkets. That having been said if you're looking for local organic produce then keep in mind that we have been working with local farms and Gabriel's continued efforts at the co-op garden has been supplying some excellent produce and herbs as well.
In an effort to get more folks interested in ordering our organic produce shares again we are now offering substitutions when placing orders.
If you don't want a particular item tell us what you would like instead and we will swap the item if it is of an approximately equal dollar amount value.
We have also been doing our best to add more local as we are now working with two more farmers able to supply even more local produce when available. Anyhow, we need some rain here, our local gardener expert said he had to haul water to the co-op garden last week as the rain tanks were emptied. Hey Lacie, if you're reading this we do not need to purchase a rain gauge. : )
Also, if anyone knows where we can get some citronella plants please let us know in the comments section. Mosquito season hasn't been at all bad, yet but the back porch area would really benefit from some bug bite deterrent this summer. Or you can ask Lisa if she has any of her home brewed bug spray available to purchase from the Herb Room. Again, just a reminder that if you can afford any sort of donation as we continue to develop our cafe and staff our GoFundMe Campaign has been a big help. Thanks so much to all our loyal customers who have been generously contributing. With your help we have been able to get through this rough patch and looking forward to our store's continued success and meeting your nutritional needs.