Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Food & Community Memo [Interactive]: Davis, California Debates Small-Format and Locally-Owned Grocery Stores vs. Chains and Big-Box Stores

A regular reader of Natural~Specialty Foods Memo informed us via an email of a lively debate currently going on in the city of Davis, California, via a blog called The Peoples Vanguard of Davis, about small-format, local neighborhood grocery stores vs. chain supermarkets and big-box stores for the city.

Davis, home to the Davis campus of the University of California, is a city of about 65,000 people. It's located about 11 miles west of Sacramento.

Davis is well-known for both its educational achievements and social and environmental consciousness. For example, it's ranked as the number two city in the U.S. in terms of the number of its residents who have graduate degrees.

Environmentally, Davis is home to one of America's first comprehensive solar energy housing developments called Village Homes. The innovative solar-energy powered subdivision was built in the 1970's, at a time in the U.S. when most city's and private developers hadn't even though about community-based renewable or alternative energy solutions.

The bicycle is one of the primary means of transportation in Davis. The city has the highest per-capita bicycle ownership of any city in the U.S., and its residents use the two-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicles regularly, and for far more than exercise. The city's official logo, pictured at the top of this piece, even features a bicycle graphic.

Davis also has a iconic public transportation system, thanks in large part to a partnership between the University of California campus, which houses about 30,000 students, and the city. Modern, energy-efficient buses, and older, English-style double-decked buses bought from Britain, traverse the entire city nearly 24 hours-a-day providing low-cost public transportation and eliminating the need for the use of private cars for many residents.

The University of California at Davis is one of the top research universities in the U.S. in the areas of agriculture and food distribution. It's a leader in both the areas of large-scale agribusiness research (including biotechnology) and sustainable, or green, agriculture.

The campus also is the number one research university in America in the areas of enology and viticulture (wine growing and making). Additionally, it's become one of the foremost research centers in the U.S. in the fields of alternative and renewable energy, electric and hybrid car development, and other cutting-edge green technologies.

The city has experienced lots of growth and change over the last 20 years, including a more than doubling of its size. That growth has brought lots of new housing, and many new residents who prefer to live in a University town but commute to their jobs in nearby Sacramento, a city of 500,000 people.

The small-format neighborhood grocery store debate taking place on the local blog is lively, interesting, intelligent and timely.

As our readers know from our numerous pieces, there's a small-format food retailing revolution happening in the U.S. The Davis debate is similar to many of those happening in cities across America. The issues include: locally-owned independent grocery stores vs. big-box stores and Supercenters, small-format, more convenient stores vs larger ones, and the affects these formats have on the environment and local, community economies, just to name a few.

Join The Discussion:

We invite you to read the article that got the debate started on The People's Vanguard of Davis Blog, along with the numerous comments and opinions on the blog regarding the issue.

After you've read the blog article and the reader comments, we also invite you to weigh in , using our comments link below, with your thoughts about small-format vs. big box stores, local food retailers vs. chains, and any other thoughts and opinions you have. We look forward to reading what you have to say.

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