By George Capsis
Oh wow! Amazon’s Jeff Bezos bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and, in days, he cut prices.
What does that mean for us here in the West Village? I mean, I went to Whole Foods on 14th Street only once and found the prices forbidding (a jar of asparagus juice with three spears was $6). They also got caught short weighting packaged foods and paid a $500,000 fine, gaining the reputation of ‘Whole Paycheck.’
Yes, the prices are decreasing significantly because Bezos has no trouble losing money in the process of killing the competition. But, again, what does it mean to us less-mobile West Village seniors? (I mean, I am nervous on my wobbly bike in traffic these days.)
I was surprised to see how many seniors came out to protest the closing of the Associated Supermarket. The only relatively cheap market we have left is Western Beef, which is a cluttered nightmare. And then there is Trader Joe’s, on 22nd Street and 6th Avenue, with 35 always-busy check-out clerks because it is cheap, cheap, cheap.
What is John Catsimatidis, owner of Gristedes, and lender and eventual owner of the expiring D’Agostino going to do? Probably nothing because, as Catsimatides says, he was lucky early in his business career to buy the building when his landlord intended to increase the rent. He prides himself on owning a bunch of different businesses that sustain each other (diversification).
No, not everybody is concerned with price. The cook for new dwellers in Rudin Towers only ever looks at prices when she shops at Gourmet Garage.
When Trader Joe’s first opened on 14th Street and 3rd Avenue, I thought, “Gee, we should have one in the West Village on Pier 40.” I called the press office in California to share the idea and got the coldest, least communicative press person I have ever experienced who answered my questions in three-word sentences (they have over 500 stores and one essential mechanism of success—price, price, price).
The Gristedes across the street went nuts when they saw lines of people waiting to get in. Catsimatidis put up a sign with the words ‘Trader John’s’ which came down hours after the receipt of a lawyer’s bristling letter.
My Hamptons neighbors sold their house and retired to their big apartment on West End Avenue. Although within blocks of Zabar’s, they relied pretty much on Fresh Direct (the money was no longer important).
So, with the Rudin towers, and all along the fringes of the landmarked Village, and even in it, we are getting condo towers and, with it, a condo culture that never looks at price. This reflects more of the erosion of the old Village.
Amazon Buys Whole Foods and Cuts Prices
By George Capsis