Farmer Joe’s & Friends

All about Farmer Joe’s Marketplace

Do the Right Thing

These are the vacant stores in the Dimond District within a one-block radius of the Farmer Joe’s on Fruitvale Avenue. It’s a sad state of affairs in Oakland. 10 million dollars a year are lost in tax revenue from shoppers going to other cities to spend their disposable income. My burg reminds me of a ghost town at times. The taggers spray paint these abandoned buildings on a regular basis. When the Payless Shoes pulled out, I called the corporate office and begged them to stay. They replied it was not feasible. They said they were losing too much money. When Blockbuster Video packed up, they told me too many people in my neighborhood stole.

This store used to be a vacated boarded up hole-in-the-wall for 7 years before Diana and Joe Tam took it over, renovated and opened up their first Farmer Joe’s on MacArthur Boulevard in the Laurel District. This is now what we neighbors fondly call “The Little Store.” It’s the original Farmer Joe’s grocery Joe and Diana Tam opened 13 years ago. When the Tams first started out, they sold only fruits and vegetables. Diana will laughingly tell you half the store was potatoes. Joe will tell you neighbors approached him and said, “Joe, you have to start selling milk and meat.” For a couple of years, Diana and Joe worked the store by themselves. Joe and Diana did everything from checking to order writing to hauling garbage. Gradually, they began to hire employees to help them. Like today, they remained deeply involved in their business, working side-by-side with their employees, cultivating a family atmosphere and getting to know a lot of their employees’ families. For the first 8 years in the life of The Little Store, the Tams took only 2 days off from work, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even on those 2 holidays, they drove to The Little Store to insure the electricity was running, and their food was safe and ready for sale the next day.

From looking at this picture, it’s hard to believe or remember what a physical dump and eyesore this building used to be. This is the new Farmer Joe’s on Fruitvale Avenue. Prior to being Farmer Joe’s, it was stalled out Crazy John’s, a failed Albertson’s and a closed Lucky.

Oakland politicians like to give a lot of airtime to renovating the city. They like to talk about helping the neighborhoods and throw around terms like sustainability. Joe and Diana Tam took the terms and did something tangible out of their own pocket. Since they opened their store on Fruitvale Avenue, Peet’s Coffee moved in across the street from the newer Farmer Joe’s. La Farine French Bakery opened a beautiful store also across the street. La Farine renovated the abandoned Payless Shoe Store. The Tams invested in our neighborhoods where others gave up. People call the new Farmer Joe’s an anchor store. Realtors are advertising now by their proximity to “the anchor.”

And then there’s this statement from Ron Lind, President of UFCW Local 5, “Locally, we’re working with elected officials to help protect our union market share by limiting the growth of non-union stores.” That statement makes me wonder what this conflict between the union and Farmer Joe’s is really about. Is it about the rights of the workers? If so, why won’t Local 5 agree to an NLRB secret ballot election to let the workers simply vote whether they want a union or not? Or is the real crux of the matter with the union, the union dues, declining union membership and the fact two other non-union groceries, Whole Foods and Trader Joes, are moving into our immediate area? Is the union picking on the Tams because they thought Farmer Joe’s would be an easy target? And why would the union think that? Because the Tams are first generation Chinese immigrants? Because they are a family owned business?

And what about the politicians Ron Lind claims he is working with so hard to limit the growth of non-union stores? It doesn’t sound much like he is concerned with employees’ rights. It sounds like he and the politicians are at a mutual back scratching party. Is that what this is about? Party down from out of town; screw Oakland. So, what about Oakland’s growth, expansion and helping our little burgs into a better place, whether they are union or not? The politicians need to do the right thing here – the right thing by their constituents, by the people that live here, by the people that support the store. It’s time for the politicians to step up to the plate and do what we elected them to do. They need to support us, the store, our community, and Oakland.


September 30, 2007 - Posted by | community, Local 5, neighborhood, Oakland, politicians, UFCW, union

1 Comment »

  1. This is a super post. It hits the nail on the head. The Union is not interested in community support and growth. I’m glad to see that people like you are supporting their community and won’t be sucked in by their double talk. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by worldphotos | October 1, 2007 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: