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A Maxim Hygiene Blog
I know… this was weird to me too. What does the freckle-faced actress-turned-pop-singer-turned actress and star of The Parent Trap have to do with a blend of fermented tea that’s great for your stomach?
Apparently, Ms. Lohan was under some kind of physiological surveillance, and the state attached her to an alcohol detector to monitor her. It seems that she drank Kombucha (a fermented tea product that's really helpful with digestion, that some people claim prevents cancer... click here for more info) in a larger than normal quantity. People say this may have set off her alcohol-detection machine (click here for the article). Normally, I would not care what someone famous is drinking, but after this story became public knowledge, the Food and Drug Administration put Synergy brand Kombucha under intense scrutiny and for fear of upsetting their customers, certain health food stores took their Kombucha off their shelves.
I'm happy that the FDA cares to check up on products to make sure they're not dangerous to our health, but Kombucha? Really?!
I read an interesting story in the New York Times last wee entitled, Fear (and Shopping) When Big Stores Move In by Joseph Berger. The article is about some of the obstacles that small organic businesses face, specifically one store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, named Columbus Natural Food. To my surprise, I realized that Maxim Hygiene Products is connected with this story. We're on their shelves!
I interviewed Columbus Natural Food's owner, Anne, to find out a bit more about the struggle of her Upper West Side health food store.
"I opened [Columbus Natural Food] 17 years ago. It was the beginning of the health food store movement and there was an expansion of health consciousness in the mainstream... I knew it was the right thing to do." These were Anne's words as we discussed her way into the Organic and natural food world. She told me that growing up her father was a farmer in the French country side and that she studied Agricultural Engineering before she came to the United States and founded her small business-style store. While her store doesn't carry the same stocks of the infinite aisles of a bigger "box-store," there is a great deal of thought and dedication that's put into selecting the choice products (grocery and personal care mostly) that Anne and her co-workers lay out on their shelves. In addition the store has a fresh and organic salad bar and a selection of prepared foods made daily on the premises for an alternative “fast food” experience that is a given part of the urban life.
" By shopping in small stores people make sure they are able to enjoy a humane environment and keep their neighborhood vibrant, says Anne. Mom-and-pop stores may be less monolithic in their approach to facilitating supply and demand, but that shouldn't make them a less appealing shopping spot.
There are many perks to having a smaller store or a concentrated variety to choose from. One of them is that store owners like Anne at Columbus Natural Food can give shoppers personal recommendations and advice for products that she may have personally selected from the sea of stuff that's floating in the health foods/ organic + "green" categories. Another perk is the attention that customers can receive on the store floor.
In an article entitled, "The Importance of Customer Service," Ryan Schuster conveys a message about diminishing positivity between store employee-customer interactions:
"What really surprises me about the experience and others like it is how rare really good customer service has become. Whether at a restaurant, a big box store or a niche business-to-business firm, really memorable customer service is becoming more difficult to find.
Some businesses still go above and beyond for their clientele. Customer service is one of the key factors that help mom-and-pop operations build loyal followings and word-of-mouth advertising."
When the Maxim crew took a field trip to visit Columbus Natural Food, I noted how Anne was scarcely available for phone calls, but spent ample time discussing the layout of her store, the rarities on her shelves (Vegan Foie-gras?!), and herbal knowledge. The attention we received and the expertise Anne demonstrated about her products made is evident: Though she may be slender and as gracefully put together as the shelves in her store, Anne is not a fabled fairy-like French woman, but a passionate powerhouse of information regarding healthy lifestyles and a great asset to the Upper West Side.
Small business stores like Columbus Natural Food build bonds of familiarity and respect between people whose paths are less likely to cross without a common link like an interest in kale or a desire to invest in a healthier lifestyle. There is an inspiring power that emerges when communities can share something in common, and what better interest is there than developing a collective interest in health?
You could imagine my chagrin when I read the article out of the Times, and discovered that Columbus Natural Food's Landlord has decided to tear down Anne's store in 2013. The community has been putting pressure on the local government to put the shop in a different location, but the Landlord insists on tearing down the small stores in the building in order to build a lucrative residential building with a commercial extension. Problem is he's not promising any of his current tenants that they can remain a part of his big plans.
Some of the Issues that allow this to happen are:
-Competition from larger stores
-Imminent threat of the alteration of zoning laws
-Local governments turning a blind eye to the struggles of independent business owners
When I asked Anne what kinds of things are being done to ensure that Columbus Natural Food will survive, she said that the store has put together a petition to demonstrate the importance of this store to the surrounding neighborhoods. To date, Anne and her co-workers have collected 4,000+ signatures.
The next step in the review process and potential approval of the development planned by Anne's Landlord will take place at City Planning, Manhattan, located at 22 Reade Street. To date, we do not have a confirmation of the scheduling of this case, named Columbus House, 95 W. 95th Street. It could be as early as June 21 but may only happen on July 12. Please go to the City Planning website to check the meetings agenda.
What can you do to help?
-Shop at smaller stores! As Anne points out “Over the medium to long term this is the only way they are going to thrive and compete with larger stores despite the higher rents that can be expected in the future due to the large retail chains being able to ‘pay more’
-Sign Columbus Natural Food's petition at their store located at: 725 Columbus Avenue between 95th and 96th
- Send e-mails to city planning's official, Amanda burden, chair of city planning commission. Click here to do so
-Read the following story for more information on Columbus Natural Food's fight in the New York Times:
Fear (and Shopping) When Big Stores Move In
by Joseph Berger
-Prairie Business "The Importance of Customer Service" by Ryan Schuster