Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Healthy Paranoia

‘I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll.’---John Lennon, ‘Watching The Wheels’

That’s what I’ve been doing the last couple months, as fantasy has become reality. The Grim Reaper of job security, sickle in hand, has been creeping into our unconscious minds of late. The financial gridlock has forced every one of us reassess our value, our worth, in relationship to the employment landscape at large.

And you know what? Compared with other industries, I’m pretty darn glad to be peddling produce, a healthy food, in this environment. My dad always said ‘people gotta eat’, and although that could be construed as a simplistic view, he’s absolutely right. But let’s get into the meat of it. Sure, they gotta eat. But the consumer is scrutinizing everything price-wise, and making decisions based on that. In Chicago, that means the middle-to-high end restaurants are dying. Also, the produce departments of major supermarkets, with their hardwood floors and track lighting, are sucking wind.

Conversely, the fast food emporiums are ringing the bell. McDonald’s stock finished up for fiscal 2008. And indigenous to Chicago as well as other metro areas, the chains’ alternative for consumers—the ethnic-based food stores—are kicking tail and taking names. Big business. Of course, it might have something to do with these establishments buying product from the terminal market on a day-by-day basis. By doing this, they catch the lulls in the market and only tend to mark it up 50% or so, drawing the business away from the hand-outstretched, contract-laden, billback-convoluted 300-600% profit credo of the chains.

We supporters of the terminal markets have been screaming at the sky about this disparity for 10 years, 20 years, heck, as long as I can remember. The difference now is that the sky is listening.

On another note, before President-Elect Obama has even taken office, he’s been hit by numerous political snowballs, most recently the resignation of appointed Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson, ostensibly because another one of those pesky ‘pay to play’ scandals have come to light. While it probably won’t be as drama-filled as the current comedy being played out in my state of Illinois, it does leave an opportunity to give a blatant plug for someone whom I think is one of our own:

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) http://delauro.house.gov/

No, not because she’s Italian (although that can’t hurt), but mostly because of the way she was up close & personal during the Salmonella scare last summer and fall. Rep. DeLauro demanded accountability from the FDA & CDC, and frankly was one of the few political allies to the produce industry during the crisis that wasn’t out to better herself first. Her appointment as Commerce Secretary would be a breath of fresh air, and a good ear as well. Cross your fingers, and I’ll put the Sicilian hex on her competitors.

Finally, I’d like to wish a Happy 84th Birthday to my dad John, who taught me the correct morals, ethics and tenets of a dog-eat-dog business. As long as I put that stuff at the forefront of my mind while doing business every day, I’ll be all right. Salut, Dad.

1 comment:

Tom Karst said...

Good stuff, Jay. And great to have another blog post from you..did you get your creativity from John or mom?

Tk