A point by point rebuttal of Two Boots’ and Bistro’s argument against the JC Farmer’s Market

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The following is my responses to statements made by the owner of Two Boots in Jersey City concerning why he and other local businesses want to shut down food vendors at the Grove St. Farmer’s Market in Jersey City.

Here is the article from NJ.com that started this debate.

Downtown Jersey City businesses take on local farmers market

From The Council Speech:

I’m speaking to you tonight because if enacted, this ordinance will pose a great threat to local brick and mortar food businesses.” – Two Boots

1. The market only provides a threat to businesses that Jersey City residents don’t like. It gives the residents more options to choose from. If the brick and mortar business is better they will prefer that, especially if the brick and mortar offers a sit down experience.

Two boots has 3.5 stars on Yelp (Franchise/Chain)
Ibbys has 3.5 stars on Yelp (Franchise/Chain)
Bistro has 2.5 Stars on Yelp

In comparison, a lot of the vendors at the market have 4.5+ stars. (All micro-entreprenuers or existing JC businesses)

These vendors thrive because the community wants good food or health supportive food that they can’t get from the brick and mortar businesses. These restaurants should work on improving their food quality and service to meet customer expectations instead of trying to knock out the competition. Prove that you are better, don’t knock out the little guy.

The ordinance doesn’t create true farmers’ markets. Virtually every downtown restaurant supports true farmers’ markets. By “true,” we mean farmers’ markets like those in New York City, the largest and most successful program in the country. They are defined as places where “local farmers, fishers and bakers sell what they grow, raise, catch and bake themselves.” Prepared foods are not permitted. Why is this? Because New York City recognizes that the purpose of a farmers’ market is to fill a gap, not to sell that which is already being offered by existing businesses. ” – Two Boots

1. Isn’t a baker preparing food? What is the difference between a bakery and a restaurant in this scenario? There are bakeries in Jersey City who according to this logic should be just as upset…. But those bakeries are at the market advertising and selling their food instead of trying to take out the competition.

2. Jersey City is not New York City. There is a huge gap being filled by the food vendors for unique gourmet food or food that meets a person’s eating lifestyle. The businesses that are failing are the ones that are not providing a unique option for the residents. Where else in Jersey City can you get fresh organic/vegan/paleo food than at the market? Every restaurant around grove that is not making a culinary contribution to the community is going to fail. Grove Street is not that diverse in its food options, and the places that are unique thrive. In New York there is a restaurant for anything and everything. If the market did not sell unique gourmet prepared foods then all of those people buying from the market will just move their business and residence out of the State to NYC to satisfied their needs. We will lose residents and money will flow out of this city.

Indeed under the definition in the ordinance, a farmers’ market in Jersey City could sell Cocoa Puffs.” – Two Boots
1. They could sell Cocoa Puffs, but no one would buy them. The Farmers market is brutal competition if you don’t offer something unique, you will not make it more than a few markets. The costs, transportation, and work that goes into running one of these stands is tremendous. If you are not selling something great you will not make money.

It creates unfair competition. Opening a restaurant is an expensive, risky undertaking. Beyond the cost of building, which can rise into the millions, we must pay high rents, staff our restaurants, even when there’s little business, and pay high taxes and fees to Jersey City. In contrast, the food trucks and table vendors who participate at local farmers’ markets have very few of these expenses.” – Two Boots

1. These barriers to entry into the food market are the exact reason why we need prepared food vendors at the market. These stands allow entrepreneurs with great food ideas to grow and eventually become brick and mortar spaces. Otherwise we would only have chains like Two Boots, Ibby’s, Mcdonald, and Dunkin Doughnuts in the area. A majority of the greatest chefs who are truly committed to food spend their lives hidden away in a kitchen with their creativity stifled because they don’t have the ability to raise capital to start their own business. The market gives these entrepreneurs a chance to offer the community something amazing while acquiring business skills at a smaller level. The market serves as an incubator for those who cannot afford a location that may cost hundreds of thousands if not millions. That is not say these vendors don’t have expenses, food trucks can cost upwards of $100,000 and all of these stands that sell food are required to prepare their food in a commercial kitchen and have a health permit.

2. The market stands consume less of the city’s resources so they should pay less taxes… less waste disposal, water & power usage, city septic systems

They are largely from outside Jersey City and many don’t even have physical locations.” – Two Boots

1. There is no way that a single vendor from anywhere could survive doing a market 2 days a week. That is why vendors travel from their home towns to Jersey City  to participate in this market. Conversely Jersey City vendors also travel to other cities to participate in markets. Most of the vendors that are not in Jersey City are close, and we should support small business across NJ not just in JC.

2. I don’t see why having a physical location has anything to do with anything.

They can come in during peak hours and leave during the slow hours while we remain open, often losing money.” – Two Boots

1. But you get to be there all year round, all day, every day making money. That is the nature of business, more risk means more reward. If you want to make more money you need a permanent location, I guarantee that Two Boots makes more in profit after all is said and done than any of these vendors do.

2. The market has terrible days, days in which all of the food you prepared you have to throw out. Where if it rains all of the money that you invested in product and ingredients is gone with no where to sell it the next day. A brick and mortar can hold onto goods and ingredients that it doesn’t sell. A stand does not have this luxury, you sell out or go broke. For most of these vendors who are already broke, a bad market day can mean finical hardship the rest of the week.

In our case downtown, they have been given the best location in Jersey City during peak hours. And yet they have none of our costs.” – Two Boots

1. It costs $150 to rent a 10 x 10 tent for 4 hours. This equates to $37.50 an hour for rent. If you multiply that by how many hours are usually in a month (720) that is equivalent to $27,000 a month in rent for a 10×10 space. This is equivalent to Two Boots paying $2,700 per square foot a month for rent.. The stands at the market have labor, transportation, rent, kitchen rental, administrative, and permit fees to pay while making substantially less money. Bottom line profits are not very high for these micro-businesses.

We believe that Jersey City should encourage and nurture investment in brick and mortar businesses. The building of physical restaurants pumps millions of dollars into the Jersey City economy. We hire local contractors. We buy from local businesses. We employ thousands of Jersey City residents. We pay hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in taxes and fees.” – Two Boots

1.Agreed but if you don’t help out small businesses grow then all you get are chains like Two Boots, Ibby’s and Dominos… Because these are the business that have the money to open restaurants in the pricey downtown area. JC residents don’t want chains, they want local unique food.

In contrast, the prepared food vendors at farmers’ markets employ almost no Jersey City residents and pump little, if any, money into the local economy.” – Two Boots

1. This statement is completely false. The market not only employs Jersey City residents but it is a big draw for outsiders to move into our city. It also draws visitors from neighboring towns and areas, wanting to buy unique food, thus pumping money into our economy. The whole point of the market is provide something that the community wants. No one ever said “Lets move to Grove St. because there is a Two Boots” Although,Two-Boots is great, and a great pizza place is definitely something I want to live by… The market attracts wealthy people to live here with its unique food, variety, and the vibrance it adds to the community. I think even Two Boots is benefiting from the markets but decides to fight sales drops on Mondays and Thursdays while ignoring overall growth.

Some of us have seen real sales declines on the days the farmers’ market takes place. Sales declines equal weaker businesses. Weaker brick and mortar businesses aren’t good for our local economy. If you enact this ordinance it will create a veritable free for all and damage brick and mortar businesses throughout Jersey City.” – Two Boots

1. These businesses can set up shop at the market for FREE. This is free advertising and would make them money if their food is good. If their food can’t compete with the food at the market, then that is why their business is declining. They need to improve their product offering to meet the needs of the community instead of trying to eliminate the food vendors that are better than them.

We believe that if food trucks and table vendors are allowed to sell at farmers markets with their massive cost advantage, it will deter further investment in new brick and mortar food businesses throughout Jersey City. Who wouldn’t think twice about locating a food business next to what is in essence a city-subsidized food court? Such an outcome wouldn’t be good for Jersey City. If we truly want more food businesses to open in Jersey City, we should lower barriers to entry, not erect them.” – Two Boots

1. A brick and mortar should welcome the market as a FREE way to market their business to thousands of Jersey City residents. This market should encourage unique and innovative brick and mortar food businesses.

On opening a space at the market themselves (free to open a space)
from TwoBoots Jersey City Fan Page

The problem is that we’ve already got huge costs in rent and wages in our existing locations. (That’s why the food trucks and tables have such a cost advantage over us.) ” – Two Boots

1. The huge rents are a huge problem in Jersey City which stifle would be entrepreneurs from opening spaces in Jersey City. The market gives these would be brick and mortars a place to grow their business until they can afford a space in Jersey City or otherwise.

2. All of these businesses must have permits from the health department which means that they rent or own commercial kitchens in addition to paying for their space at the market. These are not people cooking out of their kitchen and putting it on a table. Overhead for these businesses, relative to their size and revenues is huge as well.

If we have to set up a satellite location, it becomes prohibitively expensive.” – Two Boots

1. If you have a brick and mortar location in JC then it is free to operate a table. This is the subsidy that is offered to make it fair for local businesses to compete with outside vendors.
2. Two Boots is about 50ft from the market, they can bake their pizzas and then walk them over to their booth just like they do at the streets fairs.
3. They have all of the signage and equipment to do this already from doing the street fairs.

I already pay high rent for proximity to the Path station. Is it really fair that I pay that rent and then have to open a second location when others don’t have my basic rent to pay? ” – Two Boots

1. This is laziness. It is free marketing for your business, and you will make money if you participate in the market.

Pizza really needs an oven.” – Two Boots
1. There would be no difference than what they do at the street fair.

Plus it substantially raises my costs when I have to hire more people.” – Two Boots
1. If Two Boots offers a substantial culinary contribution to the community than they should have no problem covering the costs of hiring 2 minimum wage employees for 8 hours a week. If they believe they can’t compete with the food at the market then that proves that they do not contribute to the food scene in the community and capitalism should let their business fail and let a better eating establishment take its place with more to offer.

We’re all so close to the market that people shouldn’t be inconvenienced by our not being next to the produce.

1. If there is produce at the market shouldn’t the places that sell produce like P&K, Tendershoot, Key foods, and Shoprite stop that too? It doesn’t seem fair to stop the prepared food competition without stopping the produce competition as well. Using this logic there should be no farmers market at all.

The problem is really that people grab what is most convenient.

1. They are the 2nd closest to the path train, making people walking that way more likely to go to Bistro’s pizza place if convenience is really the cause of decline of their sales. By joining the market they can be one step closer than Bistro, who chose to open a pizza kiosk literally a stone’s throw away from Two Boots, and they are open every day. Besides that they could get customers who are walking the other direction from Two Boots and let them know they are there and how good their food is.

Additionally, As to marketing, at this point most people know about us.

1. There are literally 8 pizza places within a 5 minute walking radius of Two Boots. A lot of them have opened within the past year or few years. If they have stopped marketing, that is the reason why their business is declining. What Two Boots needs now more than ever is more marketing. For marketing its all about staying top of mind. People know they are there, but do they remember how good the pizza is? Do they remember they are there when its dinner time? When someone says lets go out to eat tonight are they top of mind? The more exposure you have, the more advertising you do the more those answers are yes. The most successful companies in the world everyone knows that they exist… but they advertise like crazy, repeating their brand message over and over to stay on top of mind and relevant. Why do companies that everyone know’s their product and uses their product still advertise? Companies like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Budweiser all know that staying top of mind is how you get sales. Right down to the most successful small businesses all make their presence very known all the time… This could be a great boost for their business and the other businesses that participate. If you stop advertising people will forget about about you.

From another Facebook Conversation in the Entrepreneur’s Cafe Group

Were it only unique products like yours I’d be in favor of some sort of limited period where startups who had an intention of building in JC could get going. That’s simply not what’s happening at Grove Plaza. You have two vendors of falafel. You have meatballs. You have sandwiches. You have Tacos. You have empanadas. You have barbecue. These non unique items make up the vast majority of what is sold and are already sold in the neighborhood.

1. Both barbecue places are JC brick and Mortars taking advantage of the free marketing the market provides.

Tacos are a Hoboken Brick and Mortar

The soup and sandwich stand, the owners had a JC brick and mortar but they closed and now are planning to open a new location.

The other sandwich guy, the one with no sign, makes a sandwich the size of a small baby with fresh ingredients. I promise you have never had a sandwich like this.

The meatball guy, yes they are in slight competition with Roman Nose, but I think a meatball sandwich which buffalo and teriyaki sauce is a different market than meatballs and pasta…

Stella’s empanada’s are in Kearny, but also where is there another place to get gluten free or any empanada’s in JC?

Does your right to buy a gluten free empanada trump the rights of all of us who pay to be where we are?

1. Yes my right to buy an empenada does trump Two Boots’ right to be the only business close to my house, because the residents pay to live in downtown JC and pay your rent. Because it is the resident’s right to eat where they want and form their community how they see fit. The customer wants unique food options close to them, that is what makes downtown such a desirable place to live.

You’re missing the point that the government (in this case the SID) should not be subsidizing some food businesses and not others.

1.These “subsidies” are bringing more people with more money into our town who are spending more money at Two Boots business and at the 17 others (if they are great establishments)…If Two Boots’ sales are up year over year you can thank the government for doing a good job developing this area bringing in new residents with money, subsidizing street fairs and markets, helping small businesses, making grove a great place to live.

Here is the council speech in its entirety

Mr Council President and Council members:

I’m speaking to you tonight because if enacted, this ordinance will pose a great threat to local brick and mortar food businesses.

By way of background, I am the owner of Two Boots Pizza Jersey City and the spokesperson for a group of 17 downtown restaurants that oppose the sale of “prepared” (a/k/a “ready to eat,” “grab and go”) foods at farmers’ markets. Here are our reasons.

• The ordinance doesn’t create true farmers’ markets. Virtually every downtown restaurant supports true farmers’ markets. By “true,” we mean farmers’ markets like those in New York City, the largest and most successful program in the country. They are defined as places where “local farmers, fishers and bakers sell what they grow, raise, catch and bake themselves.” Prepared foods are not permitted. Why is this? Because New York City recognizes that the purpose of a farmers’ market is to fill a gap, not to sell that which is already being offered by existing businesses. In contrast, Jersey City’s proposed ordinance allows for the almost unlimited sale of prepared foods as well as food that is manufactured, factory made and non-local. Indeed under the definition in the ordinance, a farmers’ market in Jersey City could sell Cocoa Puffs. I doubt that his is what anyone wants. We support real, honest to goodness farmers’ markets. Food that is fresh, local and sold by farmers and producers.

• It creates unfair competition. Opening a restaurant is an expensive, risky undertaking. Beyond the cost of building, which can rise into the millions, we must pay high rents, staff our restaurants, even when there’s little business, and pay high taxes and fees to Jersey City. In contrast, the food trucks and table vendors who participate at local farmers’ markets have very few of these expenses. They are largely from outside Jersey City and many don’t even have physical locations. They can employ a handful of people (usually from outside Jersey City) for a few hours a day. They can come in during peak hours and leave during the slow hours while we remain open, often losing money. In our case downtown, they have been given the best location in Jersey City during peak hours. And yet they have none of our costs. It’s as if they got orchestra seats for the price of standing room. We believe in a level playing field. We believe in fair competition. If they want to sell in a prime location, they can do as we did and rent a space. They can make a commitment to our neighborhood and our city. We welcome their fair competition.

• What is good for Jersey City’s economy? We believe that Jersey City should encourage and nurture investment in brick and mortar businesses. The building of physical restaurants pumps millions of dollars into the Jersey City economy. We hire local contractors. We buy from local businesses. We employ thousands of Jersey City residents. We pay hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in taxes and fees. In contrast, the prepared food vendors at farmers’ markets employ almost no Jersey City residents and pump little, if any, money into the local economy. Indeed, fully 21of the 31 vendors at the Grove Street farmers’ market are from outside Jersey City. Of the ten from Jersey City, only four invested in physical locations in Jersey City and none in the pricey Grove Street area. Or put differently, only 13% of the prepared food vendors at Grove Plaza have made any contribution to the Jersey City economy. Compare that to 100% of us. Some of us have seen real sales declines on the days the farmers’ market takes place. Sales declines equal weaker businesses. Weaker brick and mortar businesses aren’t good for our local economy. If you enact this ordinance it will create a veritable free for all and damage brick and mortar businesses throughout Jersey City.

• What will be the effect of the ordinance? We believe that if food trucks and table vendors are allowed to sell at farmers markets with their massive cost advantage, it will deter further investment in new brick and mortar food businesses throughout Jersey City. Who wouldn’t think twice about locating a food business next to what is in essence a city-subsidized food court? Such an outcome wouldn’t be good for Jersey City. If we truly want more food businesses to open in Jersey City, we should lower barriers to entry, not erect them.

What is the solution? We believe that the Department of Health and Human Services should do what wasn’t done initially and sit down with all stakeholders. Stakeholders would include the organizers of farmers’ markets, representatives of food businesses and the special improvement districts. With everyone at the table, we are confident that Jersey City can have vibrant farmers’ markets alongside strong brick and mortar food businesses.

Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to me.

Aaron Morrill

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