Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New York Magazine Jumps on Wal-Mart Bandwagaon

By now you might have seen the New York Magazine piece by John Heilemann on Wal-Mart’s plans for a New York City invasion. The article's paucity of substantive analysis on the broad-based nature of the opposition to the retail giant leaves it readers with little more than a lightweight culture criticism. It seems, in an ironic twist to be sure, that the magazine, home to the country’s richest readership and filled with nauseating paeans to the noveau riche, claims Wal-Mart’s critics are elitist snobs. You really have achieved something when you’re called elitist by New York Magazine.

Another tack taken by the author is that our Alliance belongs to a consortium of “nostalgists” because of our support for neighborhood retailers, as seen in our conservative case against Wal-Mart. To prove his point, this staunch proletarian ventured out of his Manhattan bunker and made a site visit to Rego Park where, on Queens Boulevard he found – don’t be shocked – chain stores!

This discovery apparently precipitated some kind of thought process that ended up by concluding that neighborhood retailing was dead, hence the nostalgist label. Ironically, the Manhattan voyager’s observations underscore his own West Side provincialism. Unaware no doubt that there are 186,000 mom-and-pop stores in hundreds of retail shopping strips Heilemann can only conclude that the neighborhood store is dead. Visitors to the Soviet Potampkin Villages in the 1930s had better insights than this.

What is definitely not surprising is the failure of the article to discuss the 1,000 predominately minority owned supermarkets that have risen in the last 30 years precisely when the national chains fled New York City. It is these stores that are providing quality food at reasonable prices (unlike the West Side) to neighborhoods that, until these independents came in, were simply abandoned. Now that’s a story to tell but don’t expect to see New York Magazine take any great interest.

Why Not Talk to Us?

What’s up with not even talking to us? If you’re going to do a piece that’s critical of the Alliance’s point of view why not contact us and get our reaction. Instead, having already developed its limited thesis, the article simply pulled a quote off of our website and proceeded to diminish its perspective without bothering to get a response. This kind of sloppy approach makes the final product what it is, a mélange of cutesy observations that lack substance and depth. In fact, the similarity between the article and the quality of Wal-Mart merchandise becomes more apparent with each paragraph you read.