Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 8, 2017


Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

I know there was a City Council meeting the other night, but I wanted to squeeze in a little thing that bothered me about the City Council meeting prior to that.  It was under the Economic Development discussion.  One of the items in the strategy matrix had this under the fiscal stability portion:

Encourage the development of an ethnic retail shopping center or node in Alameda, anchored by an Asian grocery store and restaurants.

Now, I’ve been pretty vocal about Alameda’s need for an ethnic retail shopping center, my druthers has always been Marina Square Shopping Mall because it’s not doing that well right now and has a number of vacant storefronts.  Although the Luckys is the only reliable place to buy fish sauce on the island right now both Squid brand (for marinades/cooking) and Red Boat (for finishing), but I digress.  Ethnic retail shopping is slightly different than your normal strip mall type store, when you get an anchor like a 99 Ranch or a Marina Foods you’re typically looking at some sort of Asian bakery chain like Goldilocks or Sheng Kee, herbal medicine shops, and a Sanrio knock off cutesy shop to follow.  These are stores that don’t necessarily compete with existing chains or shops.  These are great for variety.

Anyway, this point about the ethnic retail with Asian grocery anchor came up in the discussion and it has been nagging at me since that last meeting.  Jim Oddie seemed to take, offense is the wrong word, but he reacted very strongly to this suggestion in the matrix.  The problem with this suggestion is that Asian grocery stores are not unionized and so they depress wages.

Now, it’s a fair point, however we have a traditional beloved grocery store right here in Alameda that is union-less and somehow it almost never gets any sort of pushback from labor friendly community members.  When I see as much scrutiny for a Trader Joe’s that is given to any other business except Trader Joe’s then I’ll give that point a bit more weight.

The problem is that folks like Jim Oddie try to view ethnic shopping malls through the lens of traditional shopping/strip malls and they function vastly differently.  Additionally the problem is that there’s just not a whole lot of information about ethnic shopping malls other than in the hearts and the minds of people who have grown up around them, rely on them, and count on them for familiarity.  Personally I hate leaving Alameda but I will travel to El Cerrito once every few months in order to stock up at 99 Ranch.  These are dollars that reliably leave this island because there are no on island alternatives.  So dismissing out of hand ethnic shopping centers because their Asian grocery anchor has no union representation just like Trader Joe’s is to dismiss the needs of a huge portion of Alameda’s population.

Anyway, here’s one of the few scholarly pieces I could find on ethnic shopping centers, perhaps folks like Jim Oddie can take a read before being affronted by the suggestion that Alameda could use an ethnic shopping mall to diversify its retail offerings for fiscal stability.


  1. I buy Red Boat at Nob Hill.

    What is the “traditional beloved grocery store right here in Alameda?”

    Comment by dave — March 8, 2017 @ 6:14 am

    • Trader Joes

      Comment by Lauren Do — March 8, 2017 @ 6:29 am

      • Got it. Was confused by wording, as I didn’t think TJ was a traditional grocery.

        Comment by dave — March 8, 2017 @ 6:39 am

        • I vacillated on how to characterize it in opposition to an Asian/ethnic grocery store. I went with “traditional” instead of “western” or “American.” Does Nob Hill have shrimp/anchovy paste?

          Comment by Lauren Do — March 8, 2017 @ 6:42 am

        • Anchovy yes, not sure about shrimp.

          Comment by dave — March 8, 2017 @ 6:45 am

  2. Jim Oddie is a white liberal racist that doesn’t like Asian food that declared bankruptcy, although not as many times as Trump. Let’s impeach him.

    Comment by Robert S. — March 8, 2017 @ 6:25 am

  3. I usually do a 99 Ranch run when I hit Berkeley Bowl and then also do the Costco on Central. This is maybe once every few months. There are some good Asian Markets on E 12th and also on International but like Chinatown finding a place to park is hard. Lately I’ve been hitting the New Sang Chong on Dolittle which has a parking lot a lot of other Asian Stores in the shopping center.

    Comment by frank — March 8, 2017 @ 6:42 am

  4. Maybe Oddie could support a higher Minimum Wage Law for Alameda.

    Comment by frank — March 8, 2017 @ 7:12 am

  5. And Article XIII of the Muni Code

    Comment by MP — March 8, 2017 @ 7:43 am

  6. This is a very good, very great suggestion. Which means, it won’t happen for various, defineable but still inscrutable reasons. And for one very overt reason, typified by our mayor (and apparently, due to misplaced concern from Oddie).

    My wife and I have, since we moved here in the 00s, wondered why there was no Asian or Latino grocer on the island. Sure, surrounding area has them so perhaps that would be marginally too many. But not a satisfying answer. We were dispelled of any notion that it was economically based pretty quickly. Most people on the island appear to enjoy the changing demographics; I guess not enough?

    Hope this happens, though. The lack of unionization is problematic; maybe some accommodation could be found?
    Anyway, these two middle class, suburban white people would love if this could happen.

    Comment by Happy on the Island — March 8, 2017 @ 8:03 am

  7. Ask the shops at the Marketplace to stock what you want.

    Comment by A Neighbor — March 8, 2017 @ 8:19 am

  8. The Marketplace is on Park St. at Buena Vista.

    Comment by A Neighbor — March 8, 2017 @ 8:19 am

  9. After last night’s shenanigans…Alameda is not “Quirky and Magical” , however, replace Magical with “Mad”. Tick, tock…

    Comment by Il Cane di Ferro — March 8, 2017 @ 8:31 am

  10. it would be great to have an Asian bakery here, so we wouldn’t have to double-park in Chinatown & fight everyone at the counter for egg tarts & taro cake.

    Comment by vigi — March 8, 2017 @ 9:01 am

  11. I trek out to San Leandro which has three Chinese/Asian grocery stores located in strip malls. Over 1/3rd of Alameda’s population (2010) identify as Asian and there is a significant number of mixed race Asians as well. Certainly the fair wage issue needs to be raised for all Alameda business. As evidenced by the commenters, many Alameda residents enjoy, appreciate, and seek out Asian foods and ingredients.

    Comment by stherese — March 8, 2017 @ 7:45 pm

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