business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week we had a story about how Safeway is remodeling four Community Market locations - two in Berkeley, one in San Anselmo and one in Los Altos - that used to be called Andronico's as recently as 2016, when the company was bought by Safeway. And now, they're being rebranded. As Andronico's. With the company promising to "make some changes and enhance the customer experience, while creating an eclectic, upbeat neighborhood hub for feeding a healthy lifestyle," and bringing back the specialty foods typical of the banner's legacy.

One MNB reader responded:

I wish they had done the same with Genuardi's.

Another MNB reader wrote:

Albertsons may already have the format for food a food centric store.  You might consider swinging through Boise on your next trip West to check out the Market Street format stores in Boise and Meridian, if you haven’t already.

We had a couple of stories last week about how the fast food industry is a terrific training ground for chefs, prompting MNB reader Duane Eaton to write:

You are right on about the great experience that comes from working in the fast food industry.  In my retirement speech from the Produce Marketing Association I said that the best management training in my 50-year career came during my time managing the Gino’s Drive-In in Towson, MD.  In addition to learning about all of the skills you mentioned I had the opportunity to participate in courses put on by organizations like the American Management Association.  One program I remember to this day was one developed by 3M on creative listening.  For someone barely in their 20s, this was a incredible education.  In my chosen career working for industry trade associations, the content of those programs served me better than that of most of the courses I took in college.  Of course, at that time the hours and pay offered by fast food truly sucked.

On another subject, from MNB reader Rich Heiland:

I know you are a Starbucks fan.

This was on Facebook from our local Starbucks manager 24 hours in advance of what were to be some very, very bad storms potentially…

I wanted to let Huntsville know that Starbucks will be closed at 8:30 pm tomorrow night. We have a big storm coming in and we want to make sure our partners and customers get home safe. We will open at 5:30 am Saturday morning. Please be safe! Thank you all!

I bet she’s great to work for and the response on Facebook to her consideration for employees and customers was overwhelmingly positive. It’s the little things…..

We had a story about how Walmart came to the realization that good enough wasn't good enough anymore, prompting one MNB reader to write:

The great Vin Scully dropped this line many times over the years.

"Good is not good when better is expected."
77 days until Opening Day.

One thing will always be true. Vin Scully is the font of all wisdom.

And, from MNB reader Marlin Greenfield:

This is your now-retired friend from the Skogen-owned Festival Foods stores in WI. One of the first things I heard Dave Skogen say when he hired me 30 years ago as we opened our first Festival was “good enough never is...”. It fit our “fussy” outlook on how important the details are. It’s a phrase that still exists in our culture.

And finally …

On Friday, I provided a link to a New York Times story that I thought was an exceptional piece of reporting, arguing "that 'there is a cancer gnawing at the nation' that predates the political warfare that dominates the airwaves, headlines and online news services: "Suicides are at their highest rate since World War II; one child in seven is living with a parent suffering from substance abuse; a baby is born every 15 minutes after prenatal exposure to opioids; America is slipping as a great power.

"We have deep structural problems that have been a half century in the making, under both political parties, and that are often transmitted from generation to generation. Only in America has life expectancy now fallen three years in a row, for the first time in a century, because of 'deaths of despair'."

It prompted the following email from an MNB reader:

I read that NYT article very intently as it greatly resembles my hometown.  

I grew up in a community in Northern Illinois that until I left it after high school, I did not realize that the town was a defined area of rural poverty, based on Federal income standards.  Our town had 750 residents and its primary employer was the Illinois state prison located at the edge of town.  In my high school class, we started with 96 members in our freshman class and graduated 71 students; a quarter of the class did not complete a high school diploma in four years and most of those folks never completed a GED.  While the same acres of land in the area are being farmed today that existed 40 years ago, technology allows the work to be done by far fewer people and there are few manufacturing jobs existing today that provide what we might consider to be “well-paying jobs”.

Many of my classmates who have stayed now commute long distances to the exurbs of the Chicago area to find employment and have little saved for retirement.  The village’s population has essentially been stagnant over all this time, except for the fact that they annexed the prison into the village so the prisoners could be counted as residents to allow the village to qualify for greater financial aid from the state of Illinois.

It makes my heart break to drive around my hometown today.  As a junior-high student, I delivered a daily paper to about half the town and a weekly paper to all the houses in town.   There are virtually no new houses that have been constructed since and LOTS of them have fallen into great disrepair.  Where our community once had a hardware store, two grocery stores, two barbershops, a law firm, a doctor’s office and a farm implement dealership, its retail sector now consists of a single convenience store that sells gas.   Two Wal-Mart stores that were constructed 15 miles away in opposite directions have sucked the town dry.

This past summer my high school class had a 40-year class reunion and 27 people attended.   While the gathering was very enjoyable, we learned that 18 of our graduated classmates were already deceased----over 25% of the class.   Many of the same reasons they died young that were quoted in the NYT story were true of my class as well…..suicides, opioid abuse, alcoholism, obesity, and poor judgement.  Several of them work at the prison and one of them is on the other side of the bars.  Moreover, out of that class only 12 of us had earned a four-year college degree or more.  I still have many good friends who live in the area and I visit them often.   I can’t help but wonder how my life might have been different had I not left home to put myself through college-----and I am grateful that I did.

The survival stories only put into starker relief the stories of those who did not and do not.

As I said on Friday, every once in a while I read something that, regardless of whether it directly concerns the main business of MNB, I think is worth passing along. This Timespiece, in essence, seems to be making the point that as much debate and arguing as taking place in the country, we may be talking about all the wrong stuff, and that we're ignoring the fact that the fabric of our society may be unraveling. Provocative stuff, designed to make you think … and if you didn't check it out Friday, you still can, here.
KC's View: