Why the Earth Fare stores closed – not because they ran out of money, not…

Help get out the true story of why Earth Fare closed.

It was not that the chain expanded too fast.

It was not too much competition.

It was not that they went bankrupt or ran out of money. The hedge fund that just, in one day, chose to get rid of thousands of American jobs, still has lots of money.

Earth Fare was started by two visionary entrepreneurial guys – Roger Derrough and Randy Talley – who genuinely cared about Asheville and about the grocery store. My understanding is that the first group to buy the chain was still local and still had a feel for the Asheville community. Several purchases later, they are now in the hands of a greedy capitalist (the worst of capitalism) hedge fund that cares not one thing about health or groceries or Asheville – or, obviously, the lives of all these thousands of employees.

We employees have been surmising for months that they must be getting ready to sell the company – based on the heartless way that they were trying to reduce expenses by reducing everybody’s hours. That has made it hard for people (including, definitely, me – until I left several weeks ago) to pay their bills – and very hard to get their jobs done, with fewer person-hours to do the job. Tremendous job stress for so many workers in the store – and for our management, who kept fighting for more hours.

And more and more upset from our customers, when they couldn’t find their favorite products or anyone on the floor to help them. Or long lines to check out because of fewer cashiers. Cashiers trying so hard to still be sweet to customers when the press of long lines never lets up, when impatient customers are mean to them, when their hearts are broken by hearing customers – who always have loved this store – complaining, “What’s going on with this store? It used to be such a great store – and now it has gone way downhill.” What do you do? tell them the truth? that feels unprofessional. You just try harder, maybe chat with people less, put your head down and try to show that you are moving the line as fast as you can. (This behavior doesn’t really make things go much faster, but is good optics.) The fun goes totally out of the work.

The story I hear is that about ten days ago, the big high-profit sale suddenly fell through. Maybe the new investor caught wind that the impressively profitable bottom-line did not tell the real story of a grocery store going rapidly downhill.

I’ve been told that, when the deal fell suddenly through, the robber barons decided in about a day that there best financial option was just to write off the loss. “Shut it down! Close the stores.” Just like that. Do you think that the lives of these thousands of employees factored at all into their decision? Or the precious place that this store has had in the lifeblood of Asheville? That people have always said, “Asheville is such a sweet, special, funky place – and Earth Gate is so Asheville.”

We need to take a stand about this. We need to get the story told. Our president is telling the whole country that what is good for corporations is good for the country. We are sitting on the evidence to the contrary.

What am I missing, folks?
What do I have wrong?
Where can pieces of this story be found on-line? We need to help the media and the politicians (City of Asheville, the City Council, Steve Woodsmall – our wonderful new congressional candidate) run down the whole story, so they can tell the Asheville community and the American public what is going on.

This story needs to be covered by the New York Times, by the Washington Post, NPR, Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, MoveOn, – and by Bernie and Elizabeth’s campaign. I picture Elizabeth and Bernie, at their rallies and TV appearances, saying “Our president says the state of American capitalism has never been better – so we should re-elect him. I’d like to introduce __ from Asheville, NC, to describe what Trump-style capitalism just did to innocent citizens in that town.” Picture both Elizabeth and Bernie coming to the Friday noon Westgate Plaza rallies that will continue to grow over the next few months – “until every displaced Westgate worker gets a job.”

Our flashmobs in the store (come to #2, if the store is still open then, this Friday) are very fun and exciting and feature the “Power to the little people” music of Michael Franti. Michael loves this town and we love him. Let’s get him here.

On Friday, we danced to Alicia Keys’ wonderful new song about the little people, “The Underdog” – and it will be the cornerstone of our workers’ benefit “storytelling dance party” on February 27 (7-11 at THE BLOCK off biltmore). She seems to have some real heart for this issue. Let’s invite her to come.

Keep the faith, people! This story is exploding – and is just going to keep getting bigger.

We will survive!

Last Friday at our dance Flashmob at the Westgate store, the photographer from the Citizen Times asked me “yeah so if it’s a protest, why are you dancing?” I said “it’s actually not a protest – it’s a dance. it’s a celebration of who we are. it’s a statement that we are young and sexy and alive and we will survive just fine. “

Kool Moe Dee – Wild Wild West

Pretty much everything I know about hip-hop, I learned from my son Terry – when he was a teenager and spending his summers with his dad. (“If he’s into rap music again this summer, I’m gonna have to learn to like it – or I will go fucking crazy.” He was – and I did, like it. Going crazy was later. At one point, I claimed to know more about rap music than almost any other white middle-aged, middle-class man on the planet. That may have been an exaggeration, but not totally.)

I think this very old Kool Moe Dee video is maybe the cutest rap music video ever. (Like I know them all:).) I love the tough black cowboys in their long black leather slickers – doing cute little hip-hop dance steps in unison.

I just put this very danceable song and great video in the playlist for the Thursday, February 27 Earth Fare workers benefit dance party playlist.(https://healingvalidations.com/2020/02/09/the-underdog-dance-party-thursday-2-27-7-11-p-m)

Watch tomorrow to see what Will Smith did with this song.

The Underdog Dance Party! Thursday, 2/27, 7-11 P.M.

outside front

BENEFIT FOR THE DISPLACED WORKERS OF EARTH FARE WESTGATE

At THE BLOCK off biltmore, 39 S Market St, Asheville, NC 28801
7-8 p.m.: community networking and displaced workers marketplace – goods and services, give them some business.

Cam in club
Cam MacQueen, the queen of hospitality at THE BLOCK off Biltmore.

8-11 Storytelling Dance Party

Featuring the Asheville dance party debut of DJ Majo WOW! (“weird old whiteguy”)
Billboard says, “DJ Majo WOW! rocks the mic like no other fat, 73-year-old middle-class white man outside of New York City!”
Rolling Stone says, “Majo WOW! is actually kind of cool and funky – in his own little 73-year-old fat middle class white guy way.”

resist big smile
DJ Majo WOW!

Suggested donation: $10 up to as generous as you are willing to be for these folks, many of whom are starting to worry about making the rent.  No one turned away for lack of funds.  

Help build the playlist for the dance party: leave a Comment with your favorite revolutionary dance song – or personal empowerment song, or song that makes you feel happy and optimistic about life, or just a song you have always wanted to dance to with your friends.

Real Life in the CheckOut Line

“Helping life happen in a grocery store.”

rlcol.com

Majo Madden, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Fortune 500 Organization Development management consultant, worked for four years as a cashier at Earth Fare Asheville Westgate store. This store was the flagship store, the first of 40-some stores across the southeast. Because of the unique nature of Asheville, NC – and that unique nature of that particular store – “the hippy store” – Majo’s 20 hours or so per week behind that cash register, with those co-workers and those customers, lit him up as a writer and as a person. This is their story.

Majo’s personal blog: “Waking up”

Sherry Lynn Clark and Toni

Benefit for the laid-off workers of Earth Fare – Dance Party February 27, 7-11 p.m. at THE BLOCK off biltmore

DON’T SCREW WITH EARTH FARE! – press release

“Pretty little girl”

pretty girl with hair

These days, when – at the cash register – I tell a little girl that she’s pretty, I always follow that by saying this:

“One day here, when i told a little girl she was pretty, her mama said, ‘You know what we say, honey, when some nice person says you are pretty.’  And then in unison, very powerfully, they said ‘I’m pretty, I’m smart, and I’m strong – huh!’”

The little girl I am speaking to at this point will almost always say, “I’m smart!” or “I’m strong.”  And I will say something like, “Boy, you really are, aren’t you!”  And the mother (or father) will usually beam with delight at their daughter.

“You guys are great together!” Families

After my first four days back at Earth Fare, after a year away, I have been very keenly reminded that my greatest satisfaction in this job comes from validating people – affirming them.  And, while I really love doing this with individuals – especially if they seem lonely or depressed or like they could really use a shot in the arm – the greatest challenge and satisfaction comes from validating couples and families.  Here I will describe two families.

Read this post at my grocery store blog, Real Life in the Checkout Line, rlcol.com.