Last week, the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council (LAMAC) unanimously approved a letter-statement recognizing and thanking businesses, non-governmental organizations, and non-profits for their efforts in providing much-needed basic food supplies in our community.
Serving on the Town Council are Laura Curtis, Valerie Edwards, David Jeffreys, MacKenzie O'Donnell, Traci Pellar, and Jim Shields. The Council’s jurisdictional area includes portions of both the 3rd and 4th Supervisorial Districts, represented respectively by John Haschak and Dan Gjerde, who always attend monthly council meetings, offering support and assistance on various Council activities and projects. Approximately 3,500 people live in the area.
As most people are aware, Laytonville’s major grocery outlet, Geiger’s Long Valley Market, has been downsizing its operations for the past two years. This management decision has resulted in the store no longer offering many basic food commodities, little vegetable produce, mostly empty cold storage cases, and almost no availability of cold drinks, beer, wine, and liquor. Unfortunately, many of this store’s employees have been laid off due to the downsizing of its operations.
Coincidental with the store’s drastic scale-back, the store’s new management team bought the long closed Superette Market in Hopland, which was refurbished and then re-opened recently under the Geiger’s brand.
Yet here in Laytonville, we have the very same people running a grocery store, that doesn’t have groceries in it.
Dedicated, longtime employees have lost their jobs because the store’s new management team actually believe it’s a good idea to operate a grocery-less, grocery store.
As questionable and counter-intuitive as these decisions are, they are made by a private sector businesses that has the right to make even bad decisions. Local governmental agencies such as our Municipal Advisory Council have no authority to interfere with the legitimate rights of business owners to operate their businesses in any way they see fit.
Last spring, the store’s owners put out a letter to the Laytonville community, essentially laying the blame of the store’s decline on the collapsed cannabis industry.
While it’s certainly true that the failed County Cannabis Ordinance has had an adverse economic impact in our rural areas, most business owners are surviving, albeit with reduced revenues.
Local people are doing their best to support local businesses. Laytonville area residents would have continued supporting Geiger’s Long Valley Market if they had not been driven away by a mostly empty grocery store.
People here in Laytonville supported Geiger’s Store for 80 years. They made it an institution. A place where everybody shopped, stopped and talked to neighbors, renewed old acquaintances, and met new folks. It was kind of a happening place.
None of that is happening anymore.
Here are some comments from people on the issue:
“As an old friend of Joe Geiger and his son Bernie [father and son who founded Geiger’s] who I knew very well both business-wise and socially, and it saddens me to see what is happening at Geiger’s grocery store … Why the change? … Having followed this issue for some while, YES it is time for you to sell to someone who respects the community as Joe and Bernie did. If not then you should be upfront admitting your mistakes and go back to representing the community as the former owners did. People will forgive but it will take time.” — John
“Regarding Geiger's grand opening in Hopland: Meanwhile the Laytonville Geiger’s store is empty, totally neglecting the whole community. —Polly Lynn
“An open letter to Michael Braught and other co-owners of Geiger’s Long Valley Market: Hello Michael, I’ve got a few questions for you. Do you think we are stupid? Do you actually expect us to believe, as implied in your extremely insulting letters to the Laytonville community, that the collapse of the black-market cannabis economy is to blame for your gross mismanagement, unpaid vendors, slimy deals, empty shelves, laid-off employees, and the ultimate demise of Laytonville’s somewhat affordable food security? Do you think we are also blind? As if we can’t see Keith’s Market in our sister community of Covelo, with fully stocked shelves, despite their much smaller population and far less tourism? What about our neighbors to the north in Leggett or Garberville? Not hearing complaints from the folks up there … Good luck rebuilding the bridge you burned in Laytonville after you stabilize your wine country venture.” — A Concerned Community Member
“We definitely are food insecure. I wrote to [Supervisor] Haschak and [state Senator] McGuire. Haschak said to ask LAMAC, McGuire cannot be bothered to respond. The canned response apparently is , it is a private business and they can run it as they want, is unacceptable. We do have a farmers market and the feed store’s Farm Stand has stepped up, but not entirely adequate.” -- CB
On the positive side of this unfortunate situation, there are small businesses and non-profit organizations that are continuing to provide and, in some instances, actually increasing the availability of basic food commodities and other essential items that people depend upon.
At our meeting last week, the Town Council approved the following action item:
The Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council Hereby Recognizes and Thanks The Following Laytonville Area Businesses and Non-Profit Organizations That Have Responded To The Food and Essential Commodity Needs Of The 3,500 Laytonville Community Members:
Foster’s Ranch Market
Long Valley Feed — The Farm Stand
Laytonville Farmer’s Market
Laytonville Food Bank
Laytonville Healthy Start
Long Valley Health Center — Senior Shopping/ Transportation Program
Fort Bragg Food Bank/Cahto Tribe-monthly food pop up
North Coast Opportunities — Connecting Food Hub Farmers To Food Bank
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)