in my inbox

It’s true, I love junk mail. Not the relentless “quit cable and save”/”sign up for cable and save” garbage; but I do rather enjoy catalogs and flyers full of fancies that I would not have sought out on my own. This especially applies to emails, which when I’m not in the mood to sort through the spam, is easy enough to delete from my life sans a trip to the recycling center. I do quite enjoy an inbox brimming with links to new products, up and coming designers, and article teasers on everything from politics to polka dots. My favorites? Purewow and NYMAG.

That said, this weekend’s pile up has been quite disappointing with regards to content.

1. Good.is I’ve had my gripes with Good’s pick of stories before; sometimes it’s plain to see that a ‘novel’ idea is just new. Period. No goodness involved.

This is how I see the latest article sent my way by the site; an article on shipping container grocery stores in “food desert” communities (I term I actually like very much, by the way. Quite the describer.). The problem with this project and thus the article promoting it, is that while the organizers/designers have correctly identified the problem (no locally grown foods in poorer, dense urban communities + transportation costs to get fresh, healthy foods increases the price of apples, et., exponentially); however, their solution – temporary, small, not on wheels -doesn’t actually solve the problem of transportation costs (shipping containers cannot drive themselves!). It also doesn’t take into consideration the fee to design and build a shipping container store ($$$) and apply for things like permits to renovate and ‘park’ a box in an empty lot and all the other paperwork with which only someone who has been to city hall could empathize (the lot may be empty, but it’s still owned by someone!). Additionally, if this project is funded by a grant or otherwise, would it not be more useful to use that money towards creating a fresh, local food aisle in the existing convenience stores, by and large run by community members. This way, the overhead cost of building and maintaining a box would disappear (the convenience stores already exist!) and locales who will continue to shop the corner stores whether or not a big red box is selling tomatoes down the street, will have easier access to the fresh foods they may not pick up if not adjacent to the Hostess cupcakes.

Besides, there are plenty of truly awesome rehabs of shipping containers and equally admirable local food programs (weekly farmers markets that don’t require build or paperwork). Thanks for pointing out a new idea, Good, but either it’s time to change your moniker or increase critical thinking.

Gripe 2. Fab.com. Since launching earlier this year I’ve purchased an incredible pair of earrings from nervous systems (n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com) and a few magazine subscriptions at super deep discounts. Mostly, I enjoy looking at the six designers/brands they sell for a short period of time at reduced prices, even if some of the price tags are still incredibly steep. I especially love the inspiration that strikes: the “I can do that!” lightbulb-above-my-head response. But sometimes the products are just goofy (to be expected I suppose, when you endeavor to put up six new catalogs of products 5-6 times a week). Take for instance the necklaces Sergio James is trying to sell me today (photograph above).

Clearly he also went to Michael’s when they had that epic sale on drawing an artist supplies last month and bought up all the wooden modeling figures. And all the acrylic paint. Why didn’t I think of that. Okay, I know why I didn’t, because it’s looney!

Actually, I am sorely tempted to ask Fab.com 1)what were you thinking? Do you think people who use these models in class want to hang one around their neck, wrist or pant leg? Or, if these items are intended for people who don’t recognize that these bendable wooden figures are not baubles, do you think those people want a wooden man to hang around their neck, wrist or pant leg? and 2) did anyone buy this? Did Sergio make a killing or is he walking away from this weekend no more the richer?

3. There were more bad sales, items, ideas. I swear. Thing is, I deleted them from my inbox out of disgust. And owing to the fact that I ran out of memory boosting Ginko Biloba supplements yesterday, I cannot remember all my gripes; and I think I am a happier person for it 😉

’til the next batch of junk mail arrives, adieu.

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3 thoughts on “in my inbox

  1. I’m not sure I understand your arguments against Stockbox. You’re saying that they aren’t taking transportation costs into consideration… Which costs? driving the food to the store? Wouldn’t the transport costs be the same for any store in the area? I know that they are focusing on local foods as much as possible, both to support the local economy, but also to reduce fuel usage.

    The owners very much take into account the cost of renovating shipping containers, and applying for permits. All of this has been built into their business plan- I know for a fact that they have thought long and hard about this since they came up with the idea. They are completely funded by grants and donations, too, so no taxes have been used to fund them yet.

    The problem with forcing convenience store owners to sell produce is one of mind-set. They just don’t believe it’s worth it to carry produce, which is one of the reasons Stockbox is around today. Don’t forget the crazy price-gouging that happens at these stores, too. Stockbox’s prices are on par with Safeway, QFC, and Target. Can corner stores say the same thing?

    And while the stores were originally planned to be mobile, they found that local communities wanted permanent locations, so SB changed their business model in order to meet the needs of the community. That, in combination with pledging to hire locals to again build the local economy,

  2. Alex – Thanks for visiting alithearchitect and for your comment.

    The question of transportation cost is a tricky one – even restaurants in my area who maintain farms just outside city limits deal with the cost of transporting their food, albeit for 1 or two miles. The best examples are restaurants whose roof gardens supply a harvest, like Tavern on the Green, East 4th, Cleveland.

    Yes, whether the produce is sold in a traditional corner grocery, a major retailer or at a stockbox, there will be costs involved in getting from point a to point b.

    The real question is why not put the grants and donations (which are great to hear about) towards pioneering a change in how local business owners and managers perceive the benefit of local, organic foods so they’ll be more accepting of them in their store (if the mindset does in fact exist that poorer communities don’t understand the benefit of organic, local food; which seems unlikely). Studies have shown that a customer most values a store that can provide a “one stop shop” and a good value, putting local foods in existing stores where prepared foods, a wide selection of products, et. combined with the private investments drummed up to offset costs, seems like the simple solution.

    Furthermore, the information I’ve read about stockbox leads me to believe that there will be more than local foods, ie toilet paper sold on site. If the box expands to cover more than local foods, isn’t it just adding confusion and competition to the local market, especially the corner stores?

    Good luck to stockbox. Looking forward to the results.

  3. Wowzers! alithearchitect is getting a great deal of foot traffic today! Amazing! I’ve received many comments about my grip numero uno of the day and I have to say that some of them are a bit too angry for my sunny little disposition! While I haven’t allowed some commentators the privilege of posting to my post, I’d love to address their concerns here.

    I am unfamiliar with the Seattle area (where StockBox was born) and the mindset of corner stores there, but in Cleveland the path has been paved so that many of our grocery stores are actually locally based chains, not nationwide retailers, and one in particular, Dave’s Supermarket, prides itself in selling in both affluent and destitute areas, where the prices and selection vary to reflect the locals. Another one, Marc’s sells discounted items as well as fresh, local produce. They probably do make most of their money from cigarette sales and parking tickets (!!!), but that doesn’t stop them from having veggies.

    My firm is currently making headway on an urban design project that is aggressively working with chains like Dollar Tree to make the right decisions for an area of town that is frankly on the down and out. At every one of our public meetings the response has been overwelming for a one-stop, healthy shopping experience and it’s great to see a national retailer working so hard to make sure their investment in the community is effective for them and the people so they can offer competitive pricing, national brands and local foods. This particular area of town also maintains a garden and sells its tomatoes to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Yum. Stockbox may see a good deal of foot traffic, and agreed, an active parking lot is better than an inactive one, but that doesn’t mean that existing businesses would be closed to the idea of fresh fruit if it were subsidized (ie, the Marc’s model. Also, I dont’ think the gas station’s store across the street from where I work sells more than one dvd a month, but that doesn’t mean they don’t stock ’em!).

    The frightening thing is not stockbox closing, but stockbox closing other stores because they are selling more than local produce, dairy, what have you. The tax payers might not be fronting the costs, but the money is coming from somewhere.

    To me, the problem of locally sourced materials has always been a social and public policy fueled one, not one that requires an overhaul in architecture.

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