So long, Farmer Jack


I guess it was only a matter of time, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Now Farmer Jack is leaving the city – and the state. The last major grocery store chain is gone.

Thing is, I can’t get mad at Farmer Jack, as much as I’d like to, because they stayed with this city long after other businesses hightailed it outta here with a quickness. Farmer Jack did everything they could to stand by Detroit – and to stay in Detroit – but there does come a time when the numbers just can’t be ignored. And for Farmer Jack, the numbers reflected what all of us who live here have known for quite some time, namely that the population decline in Detroit – and throughout Michigan – is severe enough that it is causing serious economic disruption. In plain English, it’s too damned hard to make a profit out here right now, and it’s gonna be like that for awhile.

So when the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, the company that owns Farmer Jack, announced last week that it was putting the Michigan Farmer Jack stores up for sale, there really wasn’t much that could be said except for a few mumbled curse words. What can we do? Picket the place for making a business decision that just about any other business would have made years ago – and did?

It is what it is, and that’s all it is. When there’s nothing you can do, you deal with it and move on. The best way to move on in anticipation of Farmer Jack’s upcoming departure is to figure out what moves need to be made to fill the gap, not just short term but long term. Nothing against independent food chains, but a city the size of Detroit simply cannot hope to adequately supply the needs of its citizens with a patchwork network of independents, mom and pops, and full-service liquor stores. No way. We may not have a population of 1.6 million anymore, but we’re still over 800,000, and that’s not any sane person’s definition of a small town.

There’s no reason why Detroiters should have to drive all the way out to the suburbs just to reach a decent food chain, which is pretty much what you have to do right now. We can pump up that slogan “Shop Detroit” all we want, but when you can’t get what you need by shopping Detroit then you gotta shop somewhere else. It’s not really that complicated. Sure, I’d love to spend my money here, and I do so every opportunity I get, but those opportunities are evaporating like leftover rain on a desert highway. 

Yeah, I know about Glory Foods. I’ve been to Glory Foods several times because one of  them is nearby and it’s in the location where there used to be a Farmer Jack. The best I can say about Glory is that, well, it could be worse. It’s not terrible by any stretch. It’s OK. And that’s about it. But this city deserves better than OK, and whenever I take a trip to Denver to visit my mother, it’s always a somewhat unpleasant reminder of what a major metropolitan area is supposed to have. Stores with actual selections. More than one major store. Gee, imagine that.

Look, I’m sorry. This is one of those days that I’m not feeling as upbeat as I’d like, but when you live in Detroit that comes with the territory. Doesn’t mean my wife and I plan to abandon ship because we never will, and it doesn’t mean either one of us thinks the ship is sinking. We don’t. Despite it all, and in the face of it all, I can still see the roses pushing through the cracks in the ruins and that lets me know spring is coming. I’ve heard the mayor say several times that he believes Detroit is on the verge of being the biggest comeback story ever told, and I actually believe him. I know he’s a politician and it’s a politician’s job to lie sometimes if that lie will accomplish a necessary objective, but I’m one of those who don’t think he’s lying this time.

Farmer Jack is gone, and that hurts. Make no mistake about it. But I’ll keep saying it; survival in Detroit is a growth industry.


~ by Keith A. Owens on April 29, 2007.

5 Responses to “So long, Farmer Jack”

  1. […] Read more here… […]

  2. You can always start a real farm with crops and cattle on the green roof of the Ford motor plant. 🙂

  3. That’s what I like about you, Tamiki. You’ve always got a plan, man.

  4. When I was a kid & lived in Detroit, I used to look forward to my moms payday because that meant that we were going to Meijer’s that day. We shopped at the Meijer on 8 mile & Haggerty & I loved it. The neighborhood Arab grocer had old meats, not so fresh veggies & stale chips.

    The Arab grocers in Detroit & there are many are a detriment to the community & it is such a shame IMHO that one has to cross county lines to get fresh goods.

    Let’s be honest, FJ was not always on top of their game but I guess it was a safer alternative.

    I hope that it will not be replaced by some 2nd rate chain or worse, an independent Arab store that does not mind selling recycled meat.


  5. Bygbaby,

    I’m a fan of Meijer’s too, and I definitely know what you mean about some of those neighborhood markets. It was the same thing when I lived in Chicago. My biggest fear is exactly what you mentioned about a second-rate chain coming in to ‘fill the gap’, and right now I’m afraid that’s exactly what may happen.

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