Latest posts by Nicole Trottie (see all)
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L Nicole Trottie
Publisher, West Suburban Journal
This column I found myself thinking about another sort of voting. The voting that doesn’t happen at a polling place, but rather at the marketplace. Every time we open our wallets we’re casting a vote about the kind of community we want to live in.
In last week’s issue of the West Suburban Journal, we saw quite a bit of commotion over Aldi’s plans to close its Maywood store this Christmas Eve. Bah Humbug! That being said, the Village of Maywood’s population of about 29,000 residents have not one local market to shop.
Mayor Edweena Perkins, Representative Chris Welch, and other local officials rolled up their sleeves and did their best to convince Aldi to remain in the hood. However, their pleas fell on deaf ears.
At the heart of the controversy over the closing of Aldi is a bigger debate about how exactly we want to define community and how we support businesses in the community.
It’s safe to say that Aldi is a successful grocery chain for a reason. Headquartered in Batavia, IL., Aldi has nearly 1,600 stores across 35 states, and employees over 24,000 people. The company projects by 2018 its total number of stores to reach nearly 2,000, according to its prospectus.
It’s my bet that Aldi’s leaders don’t just throw darts at a map blindfold to determine where to open or close stores. They pick locations strategically based on where they can profit. So, if they want to ditch the Maywood Aldi amid Class 8 tax incentives set to expire in 2017, that likely means residents are not shopping there enough to lead Aldi to believe their store will remain viable.
There are several factors that come into play when a big box decides to open or close shop, such as infrastructure repairs, median income, number of households, proximity to high traffic, proximity to nearby successful stores (close proximity helps to reduce product shipping costs and recruit experienced talent)
I would imagine many of us are similar when it comes to our retail choices. I shop a lot of places. Meijer, Target, Trader Joe’s and, yes, Aldi on occasion. But if you asked me what I want to see more of in the community, what I think is crucial to Maywood, I’d say small businesses.
There seem to be Aldi’s, McDonald’s and Target’s in most cities that I visit. But, those stores don’t define community. There’s only one West Suburban Journal. There’s only one Maywood Dental. There’s only one TJ & J’s. There’s only one Corbin Funeral Home. Well, there was. Upon opening a funeral home in Maywood, Randy Corbin became a valuable fixture in the community. He supported generously our local businesses and residents. But after a few short years in Maywood Corbin decided sadly that village politics under the Yarbrough’s (Karen and Henderson) leadership was not conducive to business. He walked away with a significant financial loss.
Here’s a tough pill to swallow: Corbin’s business closed because not enough people in leadership saw the value in what he brought to the community. And not enough residents made their voice heard and casted their vote. Add to the list of Corbin’s; Maywood Market, First Suburban National Bank, Maywood Farmers Market, and the like.
In Kevin Beese’s December 22 story, Money has to keep flowing, trustee Mike Rogers said in his interview the following about Maywood’s reputation, “Our name is becoming mud … Exponentially everything is negative. The positive is hard to find. No one knows who the valedictorian is at Proviso East, but everyone knows if someone gets shot at 19th and Madison. It’s the totally opposite approach from what we need. We can’t continue to be our own worst enemy.”
The problem with this statement is that Roger’s plays the victim in a game of self-pity and wallow while contributing to the problems that plague Maywood. Take for instance, the West Suburban Journal. Our community paper has covered news of the village for, well, nearly 13 years. Yet trustee Rogers in his statement does not expound on the positive stories featured in our pages each week like promoting of MOMS, Proviso East and West Sports, the Business Development Center located at 17th and Madison, the grand opening of the new PLCCA Education Center, Shop with a Cop, Maywood Police Department 135th Anniversary spread, The Veteran’s Resource Fair and so on. Further, trustee Rogers turns a blind eye to residents inquires about why public notices designed to inform residents of the goings on in our neighborhood are published in the Sun Times and not the local newspaper of legal record. However, Rogers is not alone.
The Maywood Chamber, charged with the responsibility of building and fostering the success of local businesses, outsources the publication of its annual community guide to Wednesday Journal of Oak Park. Meanwhile, the West Suburban Journal hires 99 percent of its employees from Maywood and the surrounding Proviso area. Last I checked the Oak Park publisher employees 1 black out of nearly 75 employees. I give you these examples not to play the victim, but to offer first-hand account of the ass- backwards decisions made by village leadership.
If like trustee Rogers, you wonder why you’re in the ‘exponentially negative situation’, take a long hard look in the mirror. If you don’t support local businesses, don’t act shocked when they shut down. The closing of Aldi, Corbin, Maywood Market and First Suburban is something we as a community should mourn. Or at least learn from. But we shouldn’t be surprised. We’re getting exactly what we pay for. Roger’s is correct, “we can’t continue to be our own worst enemy.”. Nor can we afford to vote for our worst enemies. They say if you don’t vote you can’t complain. I say if you don’t vote you can complain, but your cries fall on deaf ears.