If you build it, they won’t necessarily come

If you build it, they won’t necessarily come

We live in the age of entitlement, as opposed to enlightenment. – English comedian Bill Bailey

Per my plethora of previous protestations, I just don’t get the kind of public official/community activist entitlement mentality that inevitably leads to a minority victimhood mentality, which only serves to keep those fine folks mired in their same sad economic circumstances.

It may be a bit apples and orangey, but we’re also going to connect the Second City to the city of Elgin, Illinois, to this frequent municipal failure to understand how the market really works Though few people can actually define the word, we love capitalism until it works against us, and we hate “socialism” until it works for us.

Here’s what I mean.

Aldercreatures* and community organizers from Chicago’s southside Englewood neighborhood are up in arms over the impending Save-a-Lot grocery store slated to move into the former Whole Foods Market building at 63rd and Halsted.

“My community does not want a Save-A-Lot grocery store,” 16th ward alderman Stephanie Coleman howled in reference to a recent resident survey. “To go from such a full-scale grocery, a high, high market if you will, to the lowest; that sends a very mixed message to our community, quite frankly,” she said, “We deserve quality, affordable fresh produce just as any other community in the city of Chicago.”

“Affordable fresh produce?” Apparently our intrepid councilman hasn’t visited a Whole Foods in quite some time. Even the generally befuddled Chicago Mayor Lightweight aptly noted that the uber expensive Whole Foods was “not a good partner” for that poverty-stricken neighborhood well before it moved in.

Not to be outdone, Asiaha Butler, CEO of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, or R.A.G.E., added that residents most affected by the impending grocer were excluded from the decision-making process. “It’s hard to accept this when people have a history of knowing what Save-A-Lot has been in Black communities,” she said, “You never hear about a Save-A-Lot in Lincoln Park, or downtown.”

No, you don’t! But you also don’t hear about the same level of crime in those areas, either. Since when do neighborhood residents get to “decide” what business will serve them, regardless of the overarching market forces? Do you really think an Aldi is going to magically materialize on a street corner just because you’re kind of cute? If that’s the case, then I want a Hooters to move in right across the street from me.

Just don’t tell my wife I said that.

Not only has Englewood’s population plummeted from 98,000 in 1960 to just 24,000 in 2020 – a 75 percent decline – but the crime rate is 125 percent above the Chicago average, and 46 percent of its residents live below the poverty line. Given those glaring Business 101 constraints, why would any Jewel or Meijer enter into what would inevitably become a money losing proposition?

For the record, I’ve never seen a 501(c)(3) in any of their annual reports.

This stilted Chicago scenario reminds me of those San Francisco city board of supervisor nitwits who excoriated Walgreens for closing stores that were facing organized shoplifting to the tune of 500 percent more than the national average. What did they think was going to happen? Those stores would simply start handing their inventory over to the brazen thieves and somehow keep their doors open?

Do good Christians everywhere owe their less fortunate brothers and sisters a hand up when they really need it? Absolutely! But even that possibility won’t change a thing until Englewood residents take their neighborhood back. It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. And it certainly won’t happen as long as self-righteous “activists” like Ms. Butler and pandering politicians like Ms. Coleman insist upon perpetuating their constituents’ victimhood at every turn.

Of course, we all know that ain’t about to happen as long as the good councilwoman is collecting her absurd $143,000 aldermanic salary.

Oh! Since we’re talking, I’d like to add that calling your neighborhood group “RAGE” may not be the best way to get businesses to come into your community. Considering the crap Save-a-Lot’s taking for their efforts, what self-respecting grocery store chain would want to have to endure this kind of corrosive no-win situation?

To further prove that white folks don’t have a monopoly on unfounded chutzpah, Coleman’s demanding that Save-a-Lot’s CEO meet with neighborhood representatives to discuss this prospect. I’d tell them to go pound sand and remind them that their residents are under no obligation to shop at their store.

As my sainted mother used to tell me “beggars can’t be choosers.”

I love exemplary corporate citizens like Apple, Target, and Nike, but the only thing any business owes its potential customers is reasonable service and good products at reasonable prices while they make a reasonable profit to satisfy their shareholders.

But as long as the bleak Englewood situation remains the same, the best that neighborhood can expect is a low-end grocery store with a poor reputation for serving minority customers, because that’s exactly what the Englewood market will bear – no more and no less. And no amount of political shrieking and rending of garments will ever change that reality.

It only makes it worse.


On Thursday, we’ll move out to Elgin to further discuss why these constituent surveys are a bad idea. And don’t even get me started on TIFs.

* The term “aldercreatures” is a tribute to the late, great Mike Royko who frequently referred to Chicago city councilmen with that word.

2 thoughts on “If you build it, they won’t necessarily come

  1. This is one of the best of the local discount food stores, and is an ALDI competitor.

    Contrary to the crazy statements by the local POLS, this is a store that will present better prices for food products including fresh produce than WHOLE FOODS!

    These politicians want their neighborhood to then also have a Gucci store and maybe a Rolex store? Yeah right!

    I remember buying ONE Red Delicious apple at WHOLE FOODS for $1.98….while a bag and about 3 pounds was $2.99 at Aldi.

    Who in that neighborhood would choose to buy ONE overpriced APPLE!?

    SAVE A LOT is really a great store chain and will offer great deals for the neighborhood.

    In 2020, Save A Lot launched an initiative to convert all company-owned stores to license ownership. Today nearly all Save A Lot locations are owned and operated by independent licensees.

    Save A Lot supplies much of these stores with its exclusive branded products, but the licensed owners have the freedom to sell other non-Save A Lot products at their stores. Some licensees have added services beyond the traditional Save A Lot model that includes bakeries, delis, liquor, tobacco, money transfers, and fuel services.

    The distribution of 900 licensed stores is spread across urban, suburban and rural communities in 32 states in the contiguous United States.

    Major licensees include Houchens Industries, Fresh Encounter, Yellow Banana, Saver Group, Leevers, and the Janes Group.

    1. You’re not going to get an argument from me! And there’s another Trib article today on another south side Chicago neighborhood that is thumbing their collective noses at Save-a-Lot. They want Whole Foods!

      Geneva wanted it, too, but the company determined the market wouldn’t bear it and we didn’t get one. That’s the only way it’s ever worked.

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