Grace under fire
Jennifer Zoga has exhibited more “grace under fire” in the last six months than most of us are called to do in our lifetime. I am sad to see the Good Food Market close on April 3. I am proud to be the friend, neighbor and customer of such a courageous woman.
Faced with petty and sometimes malicious obstacles, she tried all that she could to ameliorate the legitimate issues and concerns raised by her neighbors. Undaunted by the ongoing crusade to force her closure, she tried to adapt her store and her business plan to suit the needs of the town while remaining true to her admirable vision for her store.
She could have continued struggling against those with greater “connections” who orchestrated the repeated, and often contradictory, visits by L&I. She could have chosen to soldier on, fighting this inane, irrational resistance to a wonderful addition to our Avenue. But at what additional cost? Tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, hours and hours lost, working in and around the maze of Chestnut Hill and then City Hall bureaucracy, which could otherwise have been better spent working on making GFM an even better store and ensuring its success.
On a personal level, she has endured very bitter attacks, continuous-just short of harassing-phone calls on a daily basis, and yet she has taken the high road on all of her communications and efforts at the market.
I am a business owner and I understand the issues involved in start-up. As I said at one of the many planning board meetings, our responsibility as a community is to give new business owners the very best chance of success when they start their businesses. We have failed as a community to do that for Jennifer.
It takes great courage, composure and self-respect to say “no,” and we all know that saying no to bullies takes away their power. We all have a choice, and I admire Jennifer for recognizing and making hers. She has already had many communities ask her to consider re-establishing GFM in their backyard. If she does decide to do that, our loss will be their gain.
The Good Food Market in Chestnut Hill is slated to close next Saturday. I live three blocks from the market, and am, if not heartsick, very sad. Aside from the style and convenience it garnered on our little neighborhood, I hate what it says about the divisiveness of this community.
The owner, Jennifer Zoga, has been effectively chastised and shunned by the store’s neighbors. For some reason, an upscale village market in a building that has always been zoned commercial is a problem to these folks I see it as a place to buy coffee at the last minute, run into neighbors, a snow day destination for my kids.
Let’s remember that before Good Food with its mahogany doors and wonderful signage that would do proud any street in America, there was a pack-n-ship store with temporary mailboxes, which pulled onto our street many less-than-appealing consumers.
Chestnut Hill is studied as an example of one of the most successful and earliest planned communities. People of mixed incomes live and play together in Chestnut Hill, walking up the Avenue to shop and to the parks to relax. The community was built this way, and anyone who is not interested in living like this might be better off moving to the suburbs.
In real estate, “location, location, location,” is an oft-heard cliché. Properties are judged, not only on their merits, but also on the merits of their neighborhood. Well-kept lawns, proximity to trains and to a fabulous gourmet market like Good Food are examples of what make a desirable location. Those neighborly naysayers who are launching a battle against Good Food, might do well to remember that if Jennifer does close her store on Saturday, on Sunday morning, their real estate values will probably drop a price point.
Shocked by GFM closing
As an immediate neighbor of the Good Food Market and true lover of Chestnut Hill, I am writing to express my utter shock and dismay at what has transpired over the last year. I am all for the right of neighbors to voice their opposition and help defend and enforce the zoning laws, but the despicable behavior of a select few cowardly and malicious individuals that destroyed a business has poisoned this community for me, and for many others as well.
When I purchased a home a few doors down from what was then a storage and mailing facility, one of my main concerns was the traffic on Willow Grove Avenue, one of the main eastwest thoroughfares in the area. Delivery trucks were commonplace morning, noon and evening, but it was a small sacrifice to make to live in such a green village where I could walk to area merchants to fulfill nearly all of the basic needs and tasks of daily living.
When the Pack and Post closed, there was a noticeable drop in the traffic on the block, which continued for so long that many neighbors might have felt they no longer lived in what is in actuality a small commercial corridor. When I learned the GFM was opening, I was chagrined that the traffic would be back, but I was grateful for the convenience that a local market would offer, especially in light of the loss of Caruso’s.
I am not a lifelong Hiller, but this community has been very good to me, which makes the loss of the market all the more shocking. As a small business owner myself, I was considering renovating a space and remaining here in Chestnut Hill, in a commercially zoned property just steps away from the Good Food Market. Although I am daunted, it is my sincere hope that the community will be more welcoming to my business than it was to the market. I’m not yet ready to give up on Chestnut Hill.
Jason H. Fifield
A writer of a recent letter to the Local incorrectly linked Monastery Stables on Kitchens Lane in Fairmount Park with a lecture about fox hunting. I’d like to clear the record:
Monastery Stables is the home of the Philadelphia Saddle Club, as well as many equestrians who board their horses in its historic facilities. At Monastery, we offer a range of opportunities for riders of all skill levels who desire to learn more about horsemanship in the peaceful surroundings of the Wissahickon. Lessons in English or Western riding are available for children and adults; please call 267-997-9220 for more information about our lesson program.
But Monastery Stables does not offer fox hunting, nor was it the sponsor of a public talk about fox hunting.
AG letter closes the door on long dispute
The CHCA board approved the final settlement in the form of a document called Assurance of Voluntary Compliance. I did not write that document. It was the Office of the Attorney General that wrote it.
The board considered that proposed settlement transparently in open session in which everyone present — including members of the public — had before them a copy of that document, which is available upon request to anyone who wishes it.
After years of claims by some of alleged acts of malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, and other impropriety — some of those claims reckless and harmful to the good names of a few people — this came down to very little.
No “fraud.” No “wrongdoing.” And not one penny into anyone’s pocket.
And all of this had to do with events between 2001 and 2006 — nothing whatsoever since then.
Space here does not permit me to describe the only three relatively minor problems, the largest of which concerned the management years ago of the fund, which the office of the Attorney General found and addressed, but I would be delighted to e-mail to anyone who wishes it a copy of this five-page document. You will see that it is exactly as I have characterized it.
This is, thankfully, the end of this matter.