Trader Joes, the higher end grocery chain based out of California, had plans to put an anchor store in one of Portland, Oregon’s predominately black neighborhoods. It would have been the center of a brand new two building shopping center right in the heart of the neighborhood on a lot that has been vacant for years. Unfortunately for Trader Joes, black activists in the area forced them to back out of their plans and the reason is absurd.
The grocer had been offered a deep discount on the property which is valued at $2.9 million dollars and would have gotten it for $500,000. Part of the reason for the incentive was the jobs they would bring and the boost to the local economy that would result, something that anybody in the area should want. However black political leaders went after the chain and said that their business being located there would “perpetuate income inequality” and “displace residents” who lived in the area, although they didn’t exactly say why.
The Portland African American Leadership Forum as well as the Mayor, Charlie Hales, sent a letter to the Development Commission claiming that they are “contributing to the destructive impact of gentrification and displacement of the African American community,” and they would continue to oppose any plans that do not “solely benefit” black people. They instead have petitioned the city to build affordable housing in the area.
The construction would have began this summer and was to be carried out by a local firm that’s owned and run by black people, but that wasn’t good enough. The letter sent to the Commission also said that the presence of the grocery store would “increase the desirability of the neighborhood to non-oppressed populations,” meaning it would attract white people to they area and they didn’t want that.
A spokesman for Trader Joes said “We run neighborhood stores, and our approach is simple: If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.”