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Jeff Brown is a big, cheerful back slapper, as visits to any of his soon-to-be 12 Philly area grocery stores attest. In fact, at the entrance to his ShopRite at 67th and Haverford, there’s a life-size (albeit slimmer) smiling cardboard cutout of the social impact entrepreneur, welcoming customers, many of whom have been shopping there multiple times a week for years.
But that’s a streak that will end March 14th, when Brown will close this particular ShopRite, a casualty of Mayor Kenney’s sweetened beverage, or soda, tax. The closure will qualify the neighborhood around 67th and Haverford Avenue officially as a “food desert,” which is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as an urban neighborhood lacking in access to fruits, vegetables and other whole foods because its residents live more than one mile from a supermarket.
Brown - Self - Wednesday - Night - Day
Brown did not sound like his usual garrulous self when I caught up with him Wednesday night, after a day at the store breaking the news to employees and customers. “It was an emotional day,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “People were crying all day. We do what we do in food deserts to help people, and when it works, it’s like this little miracle that solves a whole lot of social problems. When it doesn’t, it’s tragic.”
Here’s a modest proposal, Mr. Mayor: Head on over to 67th and Haverford, and talk to the folks who hired you. You’ll hear what I heard: Of the customers I spoke to, none had cars and most were purchasing soda—proof of just how regressive the tax is. Those with cars had made the free market choice to shop in the nearby ‘burbs.
Saga - Philadelphia - Tax - War - Tax
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