Saturday, February 13, 2016

Trader Joe's and Teutonic Fratricide

In my opinion, Takoma Park has been pretty much a food desert when it comes to grocery stores since our beloved Crossroads Safeway closed in the winter of 2009-2010 (sorry, overpriced Takoma Park Co-op but I am less in need of a grocery store with a philosophy than I am of a way to get Coke Zero that doesn't involve walking by wannabe MS-13 gangbangers hanging out by Long Branch Trail at night).  This sentiment seems to be a common one, given that it has inspired both a Facebook group and more generally a blog about redevelopment on the other side of town.  I like Trader Joe's and used to walk along the trail next to BART to the one in El Cerrito, but this level of devotion, and the even more mystifying one for Chipotle, would suggest that we have a paucity of reasonably priced and reasonably healthy food options around here.

Of course, we in the Crossroads area already have a related option - Aldi (soon to have a Taco Bell with drive through and a twenty-year lease in its parking lot that will somehow not discourage redevelopment of the entire site, but that's a story for another day).  Aldi is owned and operated by Aldi Süd, whereas Trader Joe's is owned by Aldi Nord.  As I understand it, the companies are related historically in that they descend from a chain of stores established by two German brothers named Albrecht but that the companies separated in the 1960s and now operate independently and in separate areas outside of the US

I haven't found any evidence to support the notion that our more "accessible" (i.e. downmarket) Aldi would prevent the relocation of a Trader Joe's to the area although the idea does come up from time to time.

Anyway, I get the sense that the Albrecht split may have been difficult (supposedly it was due to a difference of opinion about selling cigarettes), but it couldn't have more acrimonious than the one between Rudolf and Adolf Dassler.  They were German brothers who ran a company that made shoes until world events intervened:
During the war, a growing rift between the pair reached breaking point after an Allied bomb attack in 1943, when Adi and his wife ran into a bomb shelter that Rudolf and his family were already in. "The bastards are back again," Adi said, referring to the Allied war planes, but Rudolf was utterly convinced that his brother had been referring to him and his family. After Rudolf was later picked up by American soldiers and accused of being a member of the Waffen SS, which he was not, he felt certain that his brother had turned him in.
After the war, the brothers split up with Adi forming Adidas and Rudolf starting what would become Puma.  Matters only slightly improved thereafter though.
Puma and Adidas entered into a fierce and bitter business rivalry after the split. Indeed, the town of Herzogenaurach was divided on the issue, leading to the nickname "the town of bent necks"—people looked down to see which shoes strangers wore. Even the town's two football clubs were divided: ASV Herzogenaurach club was supported by Adidas, while 1 FC Herzogenaurach endorsed Rudolf's footwear. When handymen were called to Rudolf's home, they would deliberately wear Adidas shoes. Rudolf would tell them to go to the basement and pick out a pair of free Pumas. The two brothers were never reconciled and although both are now buried in the same cemetery, they are spaced as far apart as possible.
Who says Germans aren't fun?


  1. After a $10,000 consultant study commissioned by Takoma Park, officials have determined that food insecurities are even more prevalent in our community than housing insecurities.

    Therefore, in an effort to address these food insecurities in our community, the Takoma Park City Council has approved a measure that will set the prices for certain staples sold by any and all convenience or grocery stores within the city limits.

    This will not only apply to milk, eggs and butter, but will eventually include all paper products and plastics, any product containing high fructose corn syrup or produced or manufactured by a company, supplier or distributor who has not applied for nuclear-free zone compliance status.

    Merchants may apply for price control waivers if they can show “need.”

    To help the city in establishing pricing and compliance, the city will be hiring a food insecurity compliance manager.

    1. Snicker (sort of). Aldi's would be able to weather that :>)

    2. Can't we just have the sustainability manager pull double duty? I can't imagine that gig is terribly taxing.