Cory Booker finally gets a Whole Foods in Newark

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A Whole Foods store is coming to Newark, N.J., which has had limited supermarkets for decades, since 1967 riots. Photo by Flickr user Doug Kerr.

The New Jersey city that GOP Senate nominee Steve Lonegan called a “big black hole” in Wednesday night’s debate is getting a Whole Foods grocery store, after persistent lobbying from Democratic Senate nominee and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The announcement, expected Thursday, that Whole Foods will lease a 29,000-square-foot space in downtown Newark, is noteworthy for several reasons.

The very existence of supermarkets in this city of 277,700 people is a big deal. It took 25 years after the 1967 race riots for the city to gain its first grocery, and even now, there are only three full-sized supermarkets within the 24-square mile metropolis.

Whole Foods has 364 stores worldwide and 10 in New Jersey, mostly in the state’s affluent suburbs. Whole Foods has said that prices at the Newark store will be lower, and many of their 150 employees will be residents of Newark, which as of July, had an unemployment rate of 14.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There’s also hope the Whole Foods will server as an “anchor,” wooing other development in the area.

Booker, a Whole Foods shopper, has wanted to bring healthier food to the city for a long time and initially pitched the idea to the chain in 2007. But the industry scoffed at his efforts. Newark’s reputation as a dangerous, depressed city was a turn-off for years.

The grittiness associated with Newark came out in last night’s senatorial debate. When discussing environmental regulation of the Passaic River, Lonegan said, “You may not be able to swim in that river, but it’s probably, I think, because of all the bodies floating around of shooting victims in your city.”

“Oh my god,” Booker stammered.

Besides satiating his own eating habits, securing a Whole Foods in Newark, where he’ll still be mayor after (almost certainly) winning the Senate election on Oct. 16, is good for Booker — politically, as he closes out his second term and looks to carry with him a legacy of revitalization for the Brick City.

H/T Simone Pathe

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