Friday, April 17, 2009 at 8:18 a.m.
Councilman Robert Lilligren has had a week of weeks. First, he had to fight to make sure the initial bajillion dollar wave of transportation stimulus money included funding for smaller projects, like road repair. Many wanted to blow the whole load on highway construction.
Then the brave Lilligren took on a local issue: Trader Joes wanting to set-up shop on Lyndale. This one involved personal meetings with the top brass of Wedge Co-op, constant calls from media and delicate walks across a political tightrope. Who knows, he still may be up there...
Lilligren had to confront the idea that support for local businesses from elected officials can change when a German-owned company dangles a bottle of two-buck-chuck in front of their eyes.
For the tweetless, the city is moving to allow a booze-island of sorts for Trader Joes. It requires a change in state law that mandates a 2,000-foot distance between booze shops.
Local businesses think this is the city dishing out an extra assist to Joe and his super tasty frozen tamales:
"The whole bill deals with the issues of amending the liquor rules. But I don't see how it works," says Michael Oase, Kowalski's Vice-president of operations. "Unless it opens the door for everyone it doesn't seem equitable."
"We've been participating for a while in Homegrown Minneapolis, encouraging local food stuff and this is globalized cheap food," adds Elizabeth Archerd, Member Services Manager at the Wedge.
"We welcome any competition," says Darin Sorenson, P.R. for Lund's. "It keeps us sharp. But it has to be on a level playing field."
Unfortunately, that level has Trader Joes one floor up. Which leaves Lilligren in the delicate spot of serving constituents who love the mecca of two-buck-chuck, and businesses who strive to source local.
"This is some of the continuing mixed-use-development that the city is looking to encourage," says Lilligren. "It's exciting for someone to build something anywhere in these times. I think Trader Joe's would draw more people into the region. It benefits the entire area. I think it has a regional draw to support the local businesses. Every area needs a mix of services."
And really dirt cheap wine.