Johnnie’s May Become Whole Foods

September 6, 2012

Whole Foods, the upper end, organic food chain known for high quality is apparently now negotiating with Johnnie’s Foodmaster to buy at least a half dozen of its stores including the Charlestown location in what is being described as one of the biggest local marketing stories in Charlestown’s modern history.

Foodmaster officials, chief among them its owner, John DeJesus, whose father started the company 65 years ago, was unavailable for comment.

However, some of those interviewed about the possible change, including store employees, had this to say: “So far, we have been told that nothing is going to change. That we are going nowhere,” said one longtime Johnnie’s employee on Wednesday.

Another longtime employee who also wished to remain unnamed said that she believed if the transaction takes place, and she would not refer to the level of possibility, that prices at a Whole Foods would be at least 30 percent to 40 percent higher than they are right now for many similar items stocked at Johnnie’s.

It is well known locally that the grocery chain is now in negotiations on all the various real estate issues having to do with leasing and or ownership of its various sites.

And there is the negotiation about price and terms to which there is virtually no public insight although grocery retailers say the stores being talked about could fetch as much as $150 million.

Whole Foods considers all of Boston as a dynamite market because of demographics, density and affluence. Charlestown has all three.

But it also has the type of demographic that will have Townies saying the Yuppies and newcomers with deep pockets have taken over and that prices will skyrocket while the Toonies/Yuppies and newcomers will recognize the coming of Whole Foods as a recognition their neighborhood’s gentrification as being nearly complete.

Either way, right now, everything is calm and orderly at Johnnie’s.

It could be the calm before the storm.

It could be the end staring everyone in the face.

No one in a position of responsibility at Whole Foods or Johnnie’s is talking about the likelihood of a deal.

  • Ben Welch

    It is simply not true that Whole Foods is more expensive for most grocery items that people buy when shopping for groceries.  Whole Foods caters to an upscale market, so it has specialty items that cost a lot of money.  But for staples like milk, cereal, flour and soap, Whole Foods is actually cheaper when compared to some local Boston chains.  In Feburary 2011, when Whole Foods was in the process of buying the Hi-Lo grocery store in Jamaica Plan, Rob Anderson wrote an editorial comparing Whole Foods’s prices with those of other local stores for flour, pasta, cereal, eggs, soap, milk and toilet paper.  Whole Foods was less expensive in everything but eggs and toilet paper, and Mr. Anderson makes the point that you can make up for more some more expensive staples at Whole Foods by buying other, less expensive staples.  For instance, the price of milk at the Beacon Hill Whole Foods when Mr. Anderson checked was the cheapest of any of the other grocery stores.  You can see the editorial here:

    As a Charlestown Resident, I welcome Whole Foods.  Instead of driving up to Beacon Hill, we can walk down the hill.