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Not only in Eugene.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Eugene's anarchists tried, but even they could not kill the city's reputation as a patchouli-scented fly trapped in the amber of the 1960s. The stereotype lives on, and The Oregonian reached for it in an editorial commenting on the "uproar" over plans for a Whole Foods Market grocery store in downtown Eugene. Something like this, the Portland newspaper marveled, could happen "only in Eugene," which it described as "Oregon's most famously counterculture city."

Uproar? Eugene has seen uproars, and this isn't one of them, at least not yet. What roar there has been - up, down or sideways - could happen anywhere, and certainly doesn't fit The Oregonian's template of hippies resisting a natural food store.

Whole Foods is not a counterculture outfit - it's a fierce competitor whose co-founder and CEO, John Mackey, is a vocally anti-union libertarian. And the local natural foods economy is not a counterculture scene - it entered the mainstream years ago, paving the way for enterprises such as Whole Foods.

Indeed, what's happening in Eugene is the story of one over-the-counter culture meeting another. Whole Foods is huge, accounting for an estimated 20 percent of organic food sales in the entire country. And Eugene, while it is a relatively small retail market, has a highly developed natural foods network, including growers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and consumers.

Not surprisingly, apprehensions over the ability of local stores and producers to compete with Whole Foods have surfaced - this must be the uproar The Oregonian noticed. The concern is that local businesses will be swamped, just as many independent bookstores have been in the face of chains such as Borders or Barnes & Noble. Such worries are not unique to Eugene, nor are they a throwback to the Summer of Love.

The Oregonian concludes by counseling Eugeneans to have a soothing cup of tea and relax. That's good advice, but most people affected by Whole Foods' arrival have no reason to be stressed out. Eugene's natural and organic foods businesses can expect not only to survive, but to prosper. If big retailers always won, Eugene wouldn't have so many first-rate bakeries, and Starbucks would be the only place to buy coffee.

Eugene may be famous for its counterculture - and if we ever forget it, someone is sure to remind us - but natural and organic foods have gone way past it.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Oregonian mocks critics of Whole Foods
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 14, 2005
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