EDIT 9/14/ 2013: Due to your comments, I’ve gone ahead and rebuilt my chart, along with edited much of the commentary that I originally wrote about these stores. Thanks to everyone who tipped me off to errors and omissions, which helped me find more quirks and a more complete analysis of Greensboro’s food oasis.
I live in a food oasis. I may complain about lack of stores in walking distance, but I still live in abundance of food.
To ease my urbanist brain, I finally sat down and did the math on how to get to the grocery store from my current residence. There is no doubt that despite my prime downtown location, I can’t get there without vehicular assistance. Sure, I can be like my dad who used to walk 5-10 miles a day, but he did that out of necessity. There are bus routes, but the headways (time it takes for the bus to run its route and back) are horrible. It’s far better and more practical to drive to the store.
Now I’m not knocking out the walk completely. I’ve had my 20-minute walk-to-Harris-Teeter moments too. But those moments were tough. Imagine carrying two heavy bags of pasta cans for a mile. Imagine someone my size, 5’4”, 120 something in poundage, lugging two barely bagged plastic bags through parking lots and around roundabouts and over broken sidewalks.
Oh the horror of the privileged college girl, who’s rebeling from the dining hall and avoiding her new, but annoying and challenging friends. She chose to walk to the store. WALK! Carrying groceries. CARRYING GROCERIES!
I digress. Let’s get back to the present. Here are the raw numbers on time and distance to the grocery store, courtesy of Google Maps.
|Store||Distance(driving)||Distance(Walking)||Distance (via Bus with 30 minute headways)||Distance via Bike|
|Deep Roots||1.2 miles (7 minutes)||1.2 miles (24 minutes)||21 minutes||1.2 miles(8 minutes)|
|Whole Foods||3.3 miles(11 minutes)||1 hour 7 minutes||28 minutes||4.1 miles(26 minutes)|
|Food Lion #1(Glenwood/Coliseum Blvd)||2.9 miles(10 minutes)||2.8 miles (55 minutes)||21 minutes||2.9 milesb(8 minutes)|
|Food Lion(Meadowview) #2||2.3 miles(7 minutes)||2.2 miles (44 minutes)||21 minutes||2.3 miles (8 minutes)|
|Food Lion #3(E. Market)||2.2 miles (6 minutes)||2.2 miles (44 minutes)||16 minutes||2.2 miles (12 minutes)|
|Food Lion #4(Golden Gate)||3.7 miles(11 minutes)||2.9 miles (57 minutes)||23 minutes||2.9 miles (17 minutes)|
|Food Lion #5(Alamance Church)||2.2 miles (7 minutes)||2.2 miles (43 mintues)||25 minutes||2.2 miles (12 minutes)|
|Aldi||4.91 miles (10 minutes)||4.1 miles (1 hour 22 minutes)||37 minutes||4.2 miles (25 minutes)|
|Harris Teeter West Friendly||3.6 Miles(12 minutes)||3.5 miles (1 hour 11 minutes)||32 minutes||4.3 miles (27 minutes)|
|Harris Teeter Lawndale||3.6 miles(12 minutes)||3.6 miles (1 hour 12 minutes)||35 minutes||4.9 miles (28 minutes)|
|Target Lawndale||3.6 MIles (12 minutes)||3.6 miles (1 hour 12 minutes)||35 minutes||4.9 miles (28 minutes)|
|Compare Foods||2.2 miles (7 minutes)||1.9 miles (39 minutes)||16 minutes||2.2 miles (12 minutes)|
|Bestway||2.9 miles (9 minutes)||2.5 miles (51 minutes)||26 minutes||2.6 miles (17 minutes)|
|Super G Mart||5.6 miles (15 minutes)||5.2 miles (1 hour 46 minutes)||36 minutes||5.6 miles (32 minutes)|
|Walmart||5.3 miles (15 minutes)||5.0 miles (1 hour 40 minutes)||54 minutes||5.1 miles (31 minutes)|
|Walmart Neighborhood Grocery||6.8 miles (12 minutes)||4.5 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)||30 minutes||4.5 miles (26 minutes)|
|Li MIng’s Global Market||6.8 miles (12 minutes)||4.5 miles (1 hour 31 minutes)||27 minutes||4.5 miles (27 minutes)|
|Greensboro Farmers Curb Market||1.5 miles (5 minutes)||1.5 miles(28 minutes)||16 minutes||1.5 miles (8 minutes)|
|Bessemer Curb Market||2.2 miles (7 minutes)||1.9 miles (38 minutes)||15 minutes||2.1 miles (11 minutes)|
My original methodology? I chose stores that were in 15 driving minutes or less and were not Walmart (2 of the 4 Greensboro Walmarts hit right at 15 minutes of driving). Also, all these stores are on my radar either for proximity or my actual love of shopping there. Those stores would be the Target, the Whole Foods and the first two Food Lions on my list.
These stores are clean, have exactly what I want or have the advantage of having all that I want. I do also shop at the Harris Teeters, but my guilt for going there is even worse than my Walmart guilt. I’ll save that for another post or if you really want me to explain in the comments.
After doing the additional math and analysis, new ideas for my grocery procurement appeared. Most notably, the farmers market is only 5 minutes from my house via car, making it the closest option. Shame it’s only open on Wednesdays. If I could get used to riding a bike with a cargo bag or trailer and at a speed that didn’t mow me down (or with added bike lanes on major thoroughfares), then I have far more options for stores. There would be more of a time commitment, but biking is as much an adventure as it is a chance to experience the open air. Thirty minutes on a bike can go by pretty fast. Walmart is not worth the trip, no matter the mode of transport. The bus headways are still terrible, but if push comes to shove, the options do exist. We still have moderately sized cities in North Carolina without bus service. I’m going to count that blessing of bus service here.
In addition, although not shown on the map, I found many stores in far-flung areas are actually very convenient on foot or bike to their surrounding residential areas. Bestway, a small community grocery, anchors its inner suburb area of Lindley Park. For my dad, the Glenwood Food Lion was only a 24 minute walk and 1.1 miles away from home. Likewise for other homes. We may get a bad rap for being car dependent, but if one is willing to brave sidewalks alongside or biking in the midst of busier roads, we don’t have as bad of a grade as I thought on full-service grocery or fresh food markets. If and when the Renaissance Co-op comes online, it will give that community a store in walking and biking distance, comparable with what is available in other parts of Greensboro. Also, I’ve heard from many others that the Food Lions I cited as dirty, along with Deep Roots, are not that bad. Even though I still can’t vouch for East Market in person, I can vouch for Alamance Church being a better store than it has been in the past.
This does not let the City of Greensboro off the hook for moving towards a more complete street plan for all of our major thoroughfares. If we had that, then many of these areas would become urbanist meccas overnight.
So what if I don’t want to leave downtown or even my apartment complex? Give me Peapod or give me Trader Joes. Peapod could set up a kiosk and storage space at my leasing office. Most everyone in my apartment complex is a choice buyer already. Paying premiums for rent and grocery would just be an additional expense. I would be excited to not have to drive to the store for small items. I’d just have the five-minute walk to the leasing office. Lowes Foods, a local chain suburban in nature, already offers grocery delivery. They could be that service here if Peapod decides to never venture in this market.
And then there is Trader Joes. They should move to my end of downtown, maybe on the South Elm lot or in one of the still empty storefronts on Elm or Greene Street. Their demographic desires are fairly well-known to anyone who follows grocery news. They want the professor. Moderately wealthy but choosy. Plenty of those types of people (choosy, if not academic) on my end of downtown. Similar to the Deep Roots in physical footprint, they could also draw people from the older, lower-income areas who may or may not be on public assistance. Plenty of these people already shop at the Aldi, which is another imprint of their company. Why not do the Trader Joes concept where there is at least a moderate amount of their demographic and a smaller floorspace.
Maybe they are stuck on the fear of theft, which is real, but these grocery companies need a better strategy and profit margin. Far more people need to eat and are willing to pay than steal. Stop the excuses. Oh and while we’re at it, many of these stores have questionable records on employee compensation and benefits, unionization, quality of food as well as their lust for profits even though they essentially are providing a public service. Is there such a thing as a perfect grocery store? One that I can walk to? One that delivers if I can’t or won’t drive?
This concludes my food oasis grocery rant and analysis. Where do you stand? What’s your perfect grocery store? What can they do for us who can afford to go anywhere, to make sure we don’t just go anywhere?