Saturday, April 30, 2011

Food City

Food City storefront, April 2011 (photo by Seth Fawcett)
Food City storefront, April 2011 (photo by Seth Fawcett)

1338 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe, AZ 85281           
            On Apache Boulevard, in between McClintock Drive and Rural Road, a Food City supermarket sits in a small strip mall next to a laundromat and a dollar store.  Food City, a subsidiary to Bashas grocery stores, has historically catered to Hispanic shoppers, hence the large display signs featuring products in Spanish, and the Latino newspapers and magazines found outside.  Advertisements broadcast over the stores speakers are entirely in Spanish and tejano or mariachi music replaces the elevator music one would hear in a Safeway. 
            Recently, in 2009, Bashas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Jarman) and announced it would be closing several stores, including three Food City locations.  An article in the Arizona Republic cited the filings and closing as an indicator of Latino flight from Arizona, “The business difficulties represent a remarkable reversal from just a few years ago, when businesses were rushing to Arizona to cash in on the booming Latino market, said Loui Olivas, a retired business-management professor and assistant vice president at Arizona State University.  He writes the annual Datos report that tracks the Latino market in Arizona. The purchasing power of Latinos in Arizona grew steadily every year, from nearly $5.5 billion in 1990 to $28 billion in 2007, the most recent report showed. Olivas expects the new report, due in November, to show that the rate of the group's purchasing power is growing at a much smaller pace because of the exodus of the undocumented Latino population and the economic downturn”.  The article continues by quoting a business owner in the area, “‘A lot of people are closing or downsizing. It's because of no customers,’ said Maria Sierra, 55, who owns a store that sells craft supplies. After 25 years in the mall, she moved to a smaller space earlier this year because sales had plummeted.  "Most of the comments from my customers is that they have lost their jobs or their relatives were deported," she said” (Gonzalez).
SB 1070, the most stringent immigration law to date, is the catalyst for this depreciation of Latino economic output.  In describing the need for the bill’s passage, Arizona senator Russell Pearce states, “The border can be secured.  We have the technology; we have the ability to stop this invasion.  We must  know who is coming and they must come in legally so  that we can assimilate them into our population and protect  the sovereignty of our country” (Pearce).  It seems as though since its passage, SB 1070 has not only “stopped the invasion”, but incited an exodus.
More and more immigrants face the threat of detention and deportation with the implementation of SB 1070.  “According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), approximately 308,000 immigrants were detained in 2009. This number is expected to grow significantly in view of the increase of 287(g) agreements that allow local law enforcement to arrest and detain persons suspected of immigration violation” (London).  Naturally, this would lead to a smaller market for stores like Food City that cater to Latino customers.   
While the economy continues to languish, the increased enforcement of illegal immigration yields negative consequences, like the closing of businesses like Food City and Bashas.  A 2008 study on the economic impact of amplified immigration law (in the wake of the Legal Arizona Workers Act) concluded Sectors with significant noncitizen foreign born workforces have been hard hit. This is likely to have reduced employment among foreignborn noncitizens and undocumented immigrants (LAWA).  This came prior to the implementation of SB 1070, which will undoubtedly have a continued effect on the immigrant population and subsequently the economy.
              The Food City on Apache may not be there, or anywhere for much longer.  Two buildings connected to the store in the strip mall are empty and available for lease or rent.  With the continued prosecution and removal of Hispanics from the area, this Food City may soon meet the same fate as its defunct neighbors and sister stores. 

- Seth Fawcett, Travis Simpson, Jr., and Devon Veater
Gans, Judith. "Arizona's Economy and the Legal Arizona Workers Act." The Communications Institute. University of Arizona/Arizona State University, 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Gonzalez, Daniel. "Food City Closings Reflect Dwindling Latino Population." Arizona Local News - Phoenix Arizona News - Phoenix Breaking News - 15 July 2009. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <>.
Jarman, Max. "Bashas' Files for Bankruptcy Protection; 10 Stores to Close." Arizona Local News - Phoenix Arizona News - Phoenix Breaking News - 13 July 2009. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <>.
London, Judy. "Immigration Policy from 2010 to 2020." Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies. University of California Regents, Fall 2010. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Pearce, Russell. "Arizona Takes the Lead on Illegal Immigration Enforcement." The Social Contract. Summer 2010. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.

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