COLUMN: What will New West do with all these grocery stores?

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Two grocers visit New West’s mayor to discuss a problem, and a possible solution:

Mayor: Fat City?

Grocer 1: We’re just saying think about it.

M: You want us to adopt that as a motto? I agree Royal City might be a bit dated. But your suggestion sounds pretty offensive.

Grocer 2: Fat’s a good word these days among young people. Means cool.

G1: Yeah, like “sick.”

M: Sick? Really guys, I don’t know—

G1: Fact is, Mr. Mayor, everyone needs to eat more. And this could, well, turn a negative to a positive, ya know? Encourage folks to… (puts thumbs up)... eat up!

M: (Shakes his head) It’s not really the city’s problem though. You guys got yourselves into this. I mean, we’ve gone from three major grocery stores to… (counts off on his fingers) six—eight if you count the two Walmarts.

G1: We didn’t have a choice! We had to get into the market, sir. People want to shop close to home, so we’re bringing the food to the people.

G2: Hey! That’s a good slogan—bringing the food—

G1: (elbowing him in the ribs) Stay focused, Charlie.

M: (sighs)

G1: What we’re saying is, we’re here. And somebody’s got to eat all this food.

G2: And if you don’t mind us saying, sir. It’s kind of what you wanted. Local business, local shopping and all that.

M: (sighs again, this time exasperated) Yes. Of course I did. I want business coming here, of course. I want people shopping close to home. I want local jobs. But eight grocery stores? Four Save Ons? With Walmart at Royal City Centre, that’s three grocers a block apart. We’re a growing city, but not that fast.

G1: My grandpa grew up here. He told me New West once had dozens of grocery stores. There was a Safeway on 12th Street, Columbia Street had three or four. Heck, even Sapperton had a Shop Easy and a couple others.

M: I know. Archie Miller was in here the other day and told me all about it. But he also said those were small stores. I know your urban shops are smaller now, but nothing like the old days.

G1: Fine. (crosses his arms) But here we are. For now, everyone has to eat more.

M: (shakes head) It doesn’t make sense. How can we eat more? We’re becoming a healthier city. That’s what I want! No smoking in parks! Walk to work! (bangs his fist on his desk, then stands up, warming to his topic, to wave his fist in the air) Ride your bike! Look at all our SkyTrain stations!

G2: Everyone can still do all that.

G1: Yeah, if anything all that biking and walking generates an appetite, ya know? Meantime (nods to the other grocer who pulls up something on his iPad and passes it to the mayor) check out those stats. There’s another demographic we can tap into. The folks who wear their gluttony with pride. You know, the ones who give the finger to healthy living. The ones who order the off-menu burgers like the Suicide Burger at Burger King or the Monster Mac at McDonalds. Just to gross out their friends or prove a point.

M: (sits) Hmmm… I do like a good burger... (The mayor puts down the iPad and drifts off in reverie, staring off into space a few moments. Then, returning, he slams his fist on his desk) No! I won’t have New West—my city—called Fat City. It’s wrong. And besides, my assistant told me earlier that a local tattoo parlour already has copyright on the name.

G1: But Mr. Mayor—

M: (Holds up a hand) No buts.

G1: (Shrugs) OK. How about “Overweighty City?”

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.


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