Who Wins When Whole Foods Takes Over a Johnnie's Foodmaster?

Image Credit: paulswanson via Flickr

Whole Foods is reportedly looking to take over six of the 10 family-owned Johnnie’s Foodmaster stores in the Boston area in a move we have to imagine will sharply divide our city’s fair shoppers as only grocery store politics can. As we learned last year during the Jamaica Plains Whole Foods brouhaha, people feel pretty strongly about their grocery stores. Though neither Whole Foods nor Johnnie’s Foodmaster people would confirm the talks, the Globe‘s Jenn Abelson and Casey Ross cited several unnamed real estate officials, reporting:

Negotiations are still in the early stages, but Whole Foods wants to move into six of the 10 Johnnie’s Foodmaster sites in Arlington, Brookline, Charlestown, Melrose, South Weymouth, and on Beacon Street in Somerville.

Already, folks have taken to Twitter to express everything from “OMG!!!! @WholeFoods THANK YOU!!” to “why, johnnie? why? #sobbing” We have to assume this would be more of a non-event if Whole Foods were looking to move in on a more Whole Foods-like rival’s space. But given that the retro Johnnie’s Foodmaster has staked its reputation on, in the Globe‘s words, “low prices, friendly managers, loyal customers, and old-school decor,” and that “low prices” and “old-school” aren’t particularly common words used to describe the Temple of Hand Ground Almond Butter that is Whole Foods, we’re not too surprised that there isn’t strong consensus. Shoppers are going to notice a difference. Interestingly though, Abelson and Ross point out two groups who probably aren’t divided on it: Foodmasters and Whole Foods themselves:

Kevin Griffin, publisher of the Griffin Report of Food Marketing, said Whole Foods could be an attractive out for Johnnie’s Foodmaster because it is usually difficult to exit a family-owned grocery business and get paid for it. The deal makes sense for Whole Foods, he said, because the company is attempting to open smaller markets and defend against rivals.

For the grocers, at least, this sounds like a win-win.