As a representative of a supermarket chain that operates nearly 100 stores in Los Angeles County, employing thousands of workers with high-quality jobs and benefits, I found your article, "Some Supermarkets Thrive in Inner City" [May 13], disappointing.
After investing millions of dollars to not only build, but also to restructure and reformat our [Vons] Compton store to make it profitable, closing the store was our last resort. Unfortunately, after years of losses and lackluster sales, we simply had to make what was a very tough business decision. In light of this, we worked vigorously to place every employee in another job and even secured another grocery retailer to move into our location. As a result, the impact of the closure upon the community was minimal.
However, to the contrary, your newspaper inaccurately characterized our company as abandoning inner city and urban areas. This is simply not true. While we openly provided figures showing that since 1992, Vons/Pavilions has invested more than $135 million in building new stores and renovating older stores in urban areas of Los Angeles County alone, these facts were not included in the article.
Additionally, to conclude that Vons has abandoned or failed in urban areas of Los Angeles because of the closing of a single store, is again simply wrong and unjustified. Our company proudly operates stores in many urban and underserved communities and, as we pointed out to The Times, those stores are successful. In fact, we operate five Vons stores within three to five miles of the Compton location, a fact The Times failed to mention.
Another issue that The Times has overlooked is the commitment of Vons to the communities we serve through charitable donations. Last year alone, our company provided nearly $20 million in product donations to area food banks. We provided $10 million in support of education and school programs, many of which are in urban areas. In fact, this year we partnered with the Los Angeles County Office of Education and committed $2 million to provide free technology training to 700 Los Angeles-area teachers, most of whom teach in urban/inner city area schools.
We were disappointed that our Compton store was not successful. However, we are otherwise proud of our overall record in building and remodeling stores in urban and inner city areas.
Director of Public Affairs
Compton School Board member Basil Kimbrew calls the closing of the Vons market a "travesty" and plans to protest the closure and make sure that "we get a union wage store." Perhaps Mr. Kimbrew needs a refresher course in Economics 101.
This store was not closed due to an abundance of profit, and I am sure higher wages did not help the situation. The store will most certainly be operated in the future with lower-paying jobs for a few, but with lower prices for the entire community to enjoy.
Would Mr. Kimbrew operate the store and absorb the losses? Would he expect the community to pay him higher prices to pay for his losses?
The community did not support this store for a reason. The consumer has spoken, Mr. Kimbrew. Why not put your efforts into supporting the establishments you wish to keep?
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