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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Ukrops Obsession

I've never understood the obsession Save Richmond has with the Ukrops family, but it must go way back. When I got to Richmond, Ukrops was a grocery store, a good one. It reminded me of a regional grocery in Florida called Publix. Both were a little nicer than they had to be. The help was helpful, the deli was above average and the prices were higher, but having been subjected to dumb looks, poor service and long lines, I liked the hometown feel of Ukrops. Every city should have its own regional brands. These are becoming rarer and rarer in today's market dominated by mega franchises and megalomarts.

Locally based businesses, large and small, are more connected to the community. I like the Ukrops 10K. I like the Richmond Folk Festival and a dozen other local events and organizations supported by the Ukrops family. I only later became aware they were considered "Old Richmond", a term that has thrown me. I always thought that "old" Richmond was a good thing, you know, Patrick Henry, Hollywood Cemetery, Monument Avenue. Apparently it mean sanything "new" Richmonders don't like.

Well, the worm has turned. Ukrops is on the ropes. They are no longer the largest grocery in town, First Market Bank is for sale and Don Harrison couldn't be happier. I know he is admired for somehow Save(ing) Richmond, but I find it hard to see exactly what his contributions have been. There has been his passionate campaign against what is now known as CenterStage, which is opening this fall. There are also the constant predictions (wishes) of its failure. There was his slander against Bill Pantele with absolutely no evidence, just inference. Then there was his odd expose' of the missing pages in the RPS Facility Master' Plan . One of his finer moments was his open letter to Mayor Jones. He does all this concisely in 2,000 words or less.

I don't know the Ukrops brothers, but I've talked to Jim Ukrops a couple times. Once I picked his name out of the phone book to complain about the closing of the Grace Street store. I can't reveal a private conversation other than to say he talked to a complete stranger for twenty minute with sympathy and grace, two qualities I find rare, especially online. I don't shop at Ukrops anymore and won't until they come back downtown. I have faith they will, no evidence, just a notion. I think I'll call Jim and talk about it some more.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Criticizing the Public/Private Arts Center Group is not the same as wishing for its failure. Opponents would like to see success either without public funds-- or with the transparency and openness that should come with public funds. Seems reasonable to me.

paul_h said...

Transparency would be signing you comment.

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