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Voting For a Change

April 7, 2010

By now hopefully you have checked out the FUSSYlittleBALLOT and the whole reason for this quixotic effort.

I think beck said it best:

I agree with the spirit of your ballot, even if I don’t necessarily agree with all the choices. For one, I once met Alan Chartock of WAMC and he was such a self-righteous ass I’d never listen to his radio station. I also don’t like Karavalli, despite what everyone keeps telling me about its deliciousness. And the Colonie Town Library is certainly not the best of our local libraries – not even its children’s room. I realize you’ve culled from multiple sources for this poll, and it’s not just your opinions, but I do object to those.

Yet I’m still going along with your dastardly scheme, because I, too, am tired of seeing Subway and Five Guys win categories in what’s supposed to be a local poll.

However, recapturing the “Best of the Capital Region” designation from the Times Union for local businesses is just one reason to participate.  The ballot also represents an opportunity for voters to make a statement, showing certain out-of-state businesses they are welcome, and possibly tipping the scales for a local groundbreaking.

Vicki realized this and declared:

What a fabulous idea – I have hated those lists for years because they don’t reflect quality and taste. But I have submitted my first entry ever and am crossing my fingers!!! Anything for a Wegmans!!!!

The FUSSYlittleBALLOT was not created willy-nilly.  A lot of thought went into every decision.  Today I wanted to discuss the thought process that went into choosing some of the retailers and categories in the first section.

To refresh your memory, I was encouraging people to vote for:

Best grocery (chain): Wegmans
Best grocery (single location): Asian Supermarket – 1245 Central Ave
Best wine store: Trader Joe’s
Best ethnic market: Kim’s Oriental Shop
Best health food store (single location): Honest Weight Food Co-op

One might argue that only stores that actually have locations within the Capital Region should be receiving votes in this poll.  And it is a very valid point.  The vast majority of the ballot is for local businesses.  But in Albany, there are only two major grocery chains and Walmart.  Traditionally it has been a horse race between Price Chopper and Hannaford.  Yawn.

People’s grocery shopping habits are pretty fixed.  If your favorite local supermarket gets robbed of the 2010 Times Union seal of approval, absolutely nothing is going to happen.  There is a lot more at stake for other smaller categories.  So if there is any place to take a stand about change, it is here.  If a grassroots effort landed a third grocery chain that has no presence in the market on the Times Union’s list, it would send a strong message.

Now I want a Wegmans and a Trader Joe’s in the Capital Region. Also I am keenly aware there are many others who feel the same way.  We shouldn’t have to choose one over the other.  They are both different, but special in their own way.  So I wanted to find room for each of them on the list.

Of the two, Wegmans is undeniably a supermarket akin to Price Chopper and Hannaford, which have historically topped the list.  Trader Joe’s is a different beast, as I was explaining yesterday to Bruce Roter, President of We Want a Trader Joe’s in the Capital District.

While I used to do the majority of my shopping at TJ’s when I lived in Berkeley, for most people TJ’s does not replace their supermarket, but rather supplements it.  Also, while not all Trader Joe’s locations actually sell wines, the business was built on the strength of its wine aisle.  You can read about it here, but this is the relevant bit:

Joe Coulombe rejected traditional convenience store inventory and began to market Trader Joe’s as an upscale, but value-oriented, seller of trendy, hard-to-find beers and wines. The strategy was a success and Trader Joe’s maintained its profitability. Trader Joe’s continued to sell its inexpensive, unique wines and imported cheeses and coffees as it had since the early 1970s. But Coulombe gradually began expanding the chain’s inventory to include a wide array of singular nuts, pastas, fish, vegetables, and prepared snacks and meals.

Yes, if a Trader Joe’s opened tomorrow in the old Barnes & Noble building on Wolf Road, it would not have a wine aisle.  But it could have a separate but adjacent wine store, like they have at BJ’s.

So is it a stretch to put Trader Joe’s down for Best Wine Store?  Certainly.  But I also think that if they win, or even place in the category, it too will send a message.  Maybe two.  One to Trader Joe’s and one to those who continue to defend the Byzantine legislation that keeps wine out of grocery stores.

But I digress.  And I have gone on long enough.  Tomorrow I’ll talk about the Asian Supermarket and the Honest Weight Food Co-op.

Now go vote.  And don’t forget to tell anyone who will listen.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny on the Block permalink
    April 7, 2010 9:15 am

    I love the idea of this “best of” list, so thought I would take this opportunity to comment after months of lurking. I do hope that we can finally get some of the great pizza/wings/burgers some recognition, because I will scream if I see Dominos or Unos on the list again.

    I have to admit, though, that on the question of “wine store” I am really torn. I really want Trader Joe’s in the region. I love Trader Joe’s and will always do my best to swing by one when I am downstate or in Massachusetts. But since I am generally shopping in NY or MA, I don’t go there for the wine. And I think we have some good wine stores in the area that deserve recognition, and which, unlike TJs (no matter how much I love them), are locally owned. So, I hold onto my ballot for a couple more days while I ponder what to do about the wine.

    • April 8, 2010 1:31 am

      Despite some initial rough patches, my relationship with Empire is warming up by the month. All Star is clearly a better overall wine and spirits shop, with their extensive selection of tasty distilled things. Exit 9 used to be a favorite of mine, and I was excited about their new bigger space until I saw their Sherry selection, which despite all the shelf space was meager at best.

      But I find myself on the opposite side of the wine stores these days, since they (and others) are blocking the sale of wine in grocery stores. Personally, I do not believe the doom and gloom worst case scenarios told by the lobbyists. I have looked for their studies about how many businesses would go under, to try and learn what they were based upon, and came up empty handed.

      Plus I have to wonder if any business that cannot survive with competition is a business at all.

      I’d love to have you on my side of the fence.
      The wine is good over here.
      And it’s less expensive.

      • Jenny on the Block permalink
        April 14, 2010 12:11 pm

        Okay, I did it. I put TJs in the wine category. Although I still harbor a few misgivings, there is a very good chance (I’m going with 95%) that I would not have filled out the ballot without your urging in the first place, so Empire Wine, All Star, or the Wine Store would not have gotten my vote anyway. To make up for it, I will hustle over to buy a couple bottles from each.

        Since you brought up Sherry, how soon do I need to drink the medium-good bottle of dry sherry I opened last month? Have I missed my chance?

  2. mirdreams permalink
    April 7, 2010 10:36 am

    I’ll go along with most of the scheme but for wine I’m putting Empire and for grocery store I’m putting TJ’s. Sorry :).

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