Opiates and Tacos. Mmmm.
June 13, 2004 9:27 PM   Subscribe

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?  Walgreens, a nationwide drugstore chain, has been unsuccessful in obtaining city approval for a new store in a south Austin neighborhood. Now, they're trying a new approach:
Along with plan revisions and numerous neighborhood meetings, they made public in February their intention to build a permanent home for a nearby icon, Maria Corbalan's Taco Xpress.
      —Austin American Statesman, 6-13-04
...and they've hired a political consultant, reportedly with green leanings and a history lobbying the city of Austin, to drum up support for this cause (specifically the Maria's Tacos portion of their strategy). Insidious? Benign? Is this a new trend?
posted by Ethereal Bligh (35 comments total)

 
This is mildly LocalNewsFilterish; but it seems to me to be a very interesting story that, perhaps, MeFites might report local variations upon. Is it a trend? This is the first I've seen of something like this. For that matter, is it a strategy that can be justified on the Walgreens bottom line? (For those not wishing to register for AAS, bugmenot.com has at least one login.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:27 PM on June 13, 2004


Oh, and it's not totally clear from the article, but it seems to me that the taco stand is not directly related to the initially proposed development in any way. I first thought that they were going to develop on the land she was leasing, or something, but apparently they're just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. Um, yeah. But, hey, tacos!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:35 PM on June 13, 2004


The city's Zoning and Platting Commission will consider the Walgreen proposal Tuesday, with the Austin City Council taking up the case as early as July 29.

"Platting?" Is that similar to Planning? Heh.

As far as the story -- I have no problems with it. If Walgreen's succeeds, it seems that the taco stand will benefit, and customers will benefit. I'm puzzled over any controversy.
posted by davidmsc at 9:35 PM on June 13, 2004


Yeah. I'm all for skepticism, but how hard is one supposed to look for evil underbellies of corporations when good news happens?
posted by oog at 9:46 PM on June 13, 2004


quid pro taco?
posted by eddydamascene at 9:52 PM on June 13, 2004


I admit to writing for my audience. I don't happen to be inclined to get all worked up about this sort of thing. On the other hand, the point is that Walgreens has found some (apparently) unrelated issue designed to appeal to exactly the groups opposed to the building of their store.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:53 PM on June 13, 2004


There was some brouhaha over a walgreens being built in Albuquerque around the time we moved away. We knew a number of folks involved in the anti-Walgreens effort.

The biggest issue was the potential for liquor sales right next to a big public park, but there were plenty of other concerns--it was going to open across the street from a fabulous mom-and-pop, old school pharmacy (best. milkshakes. ever.) and there was another Walgreens already open less than a mile north of the proposed location.

The m.o. seems to be "do whatever it takes to get established, we can get the liquor license/24-hour schedule/drive-up pharmacy window established later."

The flipside, of course, is that even though I've stopped using Walgreens, both of my parents have been able to get their prescriptions refilled or replaced with no hassles while visiting because they are in the Walgreens database.
posted by whatnot at 10:00 PM on June 13, 2004


How dare corporations negotiate and bend to the will of detractors. If they don't keep steamrolling neighbourhoods while smoking cigars and tenting their fingers maniacally, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein will be out of jobs!
posted by loquax at 10:14 PM on June 13, 2004


"The m.o. seems to be 'do whatever it takes to get established, we can get the liquor license/24-hour schedule/drive-up pharmacy window established later'.""—whatnot
...that is, in states which allow drive-through liquor windows. Texas doesn't. At least not around here, anyway. But back before I left New Mexico, in the early nineties, a big liquor regulation overhaul passed which, if I recall correctly, outlawed drive-through liquor sales. What happened? (It also ended the exemption of legal guardians and spouses from being able to serve alcoholic beverages to their charges at restaurants and the like. My ex-wife was under legal age for awhile after we were married and I kept a copy of the marriage certificate and the law with us so she could drink when we went out.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:17 PM on June 13, 2004


I live in N. Austin and there seems to be a Walgreens on every corner. I hope the design of the store is a little more South Austin funky than the cookie cutter stores up here.

Walgreens helping out the taco stand seems to be a goodwill measure and not particularly evil.

Oh, and Drive through beer/wine sales are allowed in Austin, but Walgreen's uses its drive through windows only for picking up prescriptions. And I don't think the Walgreens in town sell booze anyway.
posted by birdherder at 10:38 PM on June 13, 2004


The m.o. seems to be "do whatever it takes to get established, we can get the liquor license/24-hour schedule/drive-up pharmacy window established later."

I should have added, "don't all corporations do this? They have the money and the time to do so, and it's a strategy that works." Oh, and EB, I was talking about a drive-up pharmacy window, not liquor.
posted by whatnot at 10:43 PM on June 13, 2004


I admit to writing for my audience.

You have an audience now? Seriously?
posted by eyeballkid at 10:47 PM on June 13, 2004


Ah. Sorry, I should have been reading more carefully. Especially considering that I quoted you.

Huh. I've lived here eight years, and I've not ever really noticed any drive-through liquor window before. Shows you how often I buy alcoholic beverages, huh? But back in my days living in NM, it seems like drive-throughs were pretty ubiquituos and flagrant.

On preview: fuck off, ebk.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:47 PM on June 13, 2004


Aw. How cute. Eternal Blight is angry!
posted by eyeballkid at 10:49 PM on June 13, 2004


MetaFilter: Writing to your audience
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:28 PM on June 13, 2004


As the resident Walgreens expert (I used to work for one, and still do sometimes -- yeah, I've busted this out twice this weekend), apparently the liquor sales thing is only allowed in certain states, and Walgreens as a company is phasing it out even in states that allow it.

Being in Minnesota, I even find the idea of getting booze in the grocery store to be weird.

From the article:
> "It's sitting on leased property that's for sale," Blizzard said. "In its current situation, its days are numbered."

That almost sounds like a threat.
posted by neckro23 at 11:34 PM on June 13, 2004


Being in Minnesota, I even find the idea of getting booze in the grocery store to be weird.

Being in Ontario, I find the idea of booze anywhere but a branch of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario weird. And wonderful in a civil libertarian kind of way.
posted by loquax at 11:45 PM on June 13, 2004


Yeah, that was the weirdest thing when I went to visit my (ex)inlaws in Toronto. Not just that, but The Beer Store. I bet most of the American audience thought that "The Beer Store" in The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew was some obscure joke.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:50 PM on June 13, 2004


Oh yeah, I forgot about the beer store. Fun off topic fact, the government of Ontario is the largest single purchaser of alcohol in the world!

We have no Walgreens though. Shoppers Drug Mart would never act in such a reckless manner.
posted by loquax at 12:15 AM on June 14, 2004


"Platting?" Is that similar to Planning? Heh.

A "plat" is a piece of land. "Platting" is deciding what to do with a piece of land.
posted by cmonkey at 3:06 AM on June 14, 2004


EB is the new Miguel, with fuck you's
posted by matteo at 4:22 AM on June 14, 2004


Well, I don't really have Miguel's old-world charm or politesse. As a true American, I use vulgarity to make up for the lack.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:45 AM on June 14, 2004


Wow. They want to build a Walgreen's in Austin. That's just so heinous.
posted by pyramid termite at 4:50 AM on June 14, 2004


whatnot, I remember the Walgreens scandal. I lived in a rented house in Nob Hill at the time, so of course my neighbors were all up on that shit. But frankly, as far as I can tell, that Walgreens had no effect at all on the place across the street (shit, what's it called? I've been gone for a couple of years.) (On preview, oh, Model Pharmacy.) Or on the park. It's actually one of the nicer areas (would you rather go to the one at Central and San Pedro?)

Local update filter.
posted by sugarfish at 5:54 AM on June 14, 2004


"Platting?" Is that similar to Planning? Heh

A "plat" is a piece of land. "Platting" is deciding what to do with a piece of land


usage varies from place to place. in michigan, a plat is the legally registered subdivision of a piece of land into individual lots. platting is a term used variously to describe the engineering and legal processes involved in the making of a plat.
posted by quonsar at 7:01 AM on June 14, 2004


Why is it we hate Walgreens again?

Did they do something particular to offend? Or is it just the generic hating of the homogenizing factor etc?
posted by Ynoxas at 8:25 AM on June 14, 2004


I also am an ex-Walgreens employee and I always found the company very fair, above-board, and willing to do the right thing.

Not all corporations are evil, and I think we can single this one out as one that plays by the rules, and tries to do good while doing well.

(now to go buy stock, since i've pumped it up here in mefi)
posted by darren at 8:31 AM on June 14, 2004


I live in N. Austin and there seems to be a Walgreens on every corner. I hope the design of the store is a little more South Austin funky than the cookie cutter stores up here.

The one in Hyde Park, at the corner of Guadalupe and 45th, is actually quite nice imho. It fits into the neighborhood nicely, and I don't think it's evil. It's even got one of those cute and rare little "HYDE PARK" cement signs built into the corner wall. I don't know the details of the wrangling of the store design to fit the neighborhood image, but I'm guessing they didn't go to the trouble of doing a special design just out of the goodness of their hearts.
posted by beth at 8:42 AM on June 14, 2004


I used to live in Austin.







That's all.
posted by swift at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2004


At the bottom of this page, there are three good links to information about the effects of drugstore chains to preservation and renewal issues.
posted by stefnet at 8:56 AM on June 14, 2004


In Oklahoma City, Walgreens wanted to build on a lot currently occupied by a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome. The dome was apparently in disrepair, and the bank that owned and occupied the property didn't want to pay to have it fixed, so they were going to tear the damn thing down.

Now, Oklahoma City isn't exactly known for its architectural landmarks, but still... Anyway, there was public outrage, and a "Save the Dome" campaign was launched. It worked, and the dome is now safe.

I have no idea where the Walgreens store eventually went... probably someplace nearby, because true to their strategy, the Dome was right across the street from an Eckerd's.

Dome info
posted by Jart at 9:34 AM on June 14, 2004


I'm not trying to be intentionally dense, honest -- but, what's the BFD? Walgreen's wants in, the kneejerk reaction of the neighborhood association is to picket and complain, and so Walgreen's tries to sweeten the deal? Who loses? This is business.
posted by pineapple at 9:50 AM on June 14, 2004


The city's Zoning and Platting Commission

A "plat" is a piece of land. "Platting" is deciding what to do with a piece of land

Or... someone's using a Dvorak keyboard, where T and N are right next to each other. Nah, the other explanation is more likely.
posted by kindall at 10:04 AM on June 14, 2004


Why is it we hate Walgreens again?

Well, the name's way too close to Wal-Mart.
And have you seen their commercials with "life in the town of Perfect"? Highly creepy.
The cloned store designs are also creepy, but it makes it easy to find something when you drop into a store in a different town.
And any company that's having trouble getting a store in South Austin must be dangerous, right?

In other views: Why is it we hate Ethereal Bligh again?
posted by wendell at 1:17 PM on June 14, 2004


For what it's worth, or if it's relevant, I'm not really the neighborhood-activist-anti-big-box-corps-are-evil type at all. My post comes across as being pretty implicitly critical of Walgreens in this fashion; but, again, the genesis of the post was me reading the article, thinking, "wow, that's pretty interesting and unusual of a strategy for them to pursue" and "it is a little creepy that they're just pretty blatantly attempting to bribe their opponents" and, finally, "hey, this is the sort of thing that gets posted a lot to MeFi and people find interesting. And I wonder if this is a trend. This would make a decent post and it's been a while since I've posted"...so with MeFi's audience in mind and how people here view these things, I inadvertently slanted my post in more of an anti-Walgreens direction than I myself really feel.

It seems superficially like a good thing. But I do have a bit of a problem with just essentially buying off opposition with an especially attractive unrelated bonus. I do realize that, in general, this happens all the time with city councils and the like. But at the grass roots level with citizens and stuff?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:49 PM on June 14, 2004


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