The news of a Trader Joe’s potentially replacing Super A Foods triggered a flurry of comments from Alhambra Source readers — and they're still coming. At an Alhambra City Council meeting last week Vice Mayor Barbara Messina said the city needs a market that serves the city's entire population, using as an example Trader Joe’s and Bristol Farms, adding that "we do not need an ethnic market" as part of a proposed development where Super A's currently is located. This comment, in particular, set off a debate with dozens weighing in about what type of market is best for Alhambra residents.
Many readers said they were sad to see Super A go, that they prefer "ethnic" markets, and that the markets general identified as serving all of Alhambra are actually restricted as well. "Not only does Super A serve the entire Alhambra community, but it also provides great low prices to low-income families that might not be able to afford shopping at a higher end market,” Christen Lee wrote. “My question to Messina is this: How does a Trader Joe's or Bristol Farms better serve the Alhambra community when we already have Albertsons, Fresh & Easy, TWO Ralphs, Costco, and an up and coming Super Target?” [Another reader noted that there is only one Ralphs actually in Alhambra; the other one is in South Pasadena.]
"If you want to add these Supermarkets to include 'upscale' supermarkets to go with the upscale condo environment, just say so," Stephanie wrote. "It won't hurt Alhambra, instead it'll probably help with revenue and jobs. But to imply that an ethnic market does not serve everybody in Alhambra is wrong."
"With the economy as it is right now," Elena Solorzano commented on Alhambra Source's Facebook page, "these choices are out of touch. Though I like Trader Joe's, their prices aren't in keeping with a family with a single income, as is the way more families are making it. Much less Bristol Farms. Too bad they can't give Super A a facelift instead."
A few readers took the councilwoman’s comment on Alhambra’s ethnic markets as a comment on the ethnic community itself. "Now we are going to have a HIGH end supermarket because we don't need 'Ethnic' in Alhambra??" Karen Suarez wrote, also on the Source's Facebook page. "Councilwoman Messina needs to look around her community!!!! Absolutely ridiculous!!!"
“Sorry to hear that Barbara Messina feels ‘we do not need an ethnic market here’ (Alhambra),” Richard wrote. “Why not stop there & simply pass laws preventing ‘ethnics’ from living & shopping in Alhambra, after all if Messina gets her wish, Alhambra could become an all-White community & exclude any ethnic groups.”
But those who defended the councilwoman's efforts were excited about new shopping options, agreeing with Messina that ethnic markets may not benefit Alhambra as much as a Trader Joe's or Bristol Farms. "Because this area of Main St. is seeing a growth of residential units, a supermarket that can cater to a broad range of consumers will be crucial," John Gacis wrote. "The more goods and services offered, we enliven our neighborhood with different choices to improve our quality of life here in Alhambra. Diversity is the key here, and that's what I feel Messina was alluding to."
Reader O. Amaro also agreed that the proposed markets would be good for the city. “I'm willing to post my personal identity to say that I find Mrs. Messina's vision refreshing in a city that has, for too long, catered to ‘the bottom line,’” O. Amaro wrote. “I'm willing to pay a little more in time, distance and cost by driving to South Pasadena's better food markets rather than visit one of the local cheap price/cheap food outlets. The lone exception is Alhambra's local farmer's market on Sundays.”
Robert Kim, who asked whether the large amount of ethnic markets in close proximity to another best serve the city, believes that a Trader Joe’s would diversify the local supermarket offering. “You drive around the city,” he wrote, “and even extend the range to neighboring San Gabriel, we have a lot of 'ethnic' markets–these far outnumber more 'traditional' markets. I wouldn't go as far as to say we don't need any more of them, but I do voice my support in saying maybe we can use a Trader Joe's in the city.”
"That would be nice!" commented Duly Jenkins on Facebook. "Alhambra needs a Trader Joe's back." She later added, "Enough ETHNIC talk already! We are all in this together!"