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06/12/2007

Is the one who first gave me sausage now discriminating?

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 23-4Oh, Kroger, my former love.  As a boy growing up in middle Tennessee, that name was shorthand for "grocery store" (sort of like "Coke" meant soda of all brands and stripes).  Sure there were other competitors in the area, but for all intents and purposes, mine was a one food store kind of town.  We Nashvillians didn't go the market -- we went "Krogering."

I think I was at least 14 or 15 before I realized that the joy of the big K was only local to the southeastern U.S, and not a worldwide phenomenon.  I'm not sure if I wept when I found out, but I certainly felt a little piece of me die.  Ya see, I knew I would flee to New York City literally from about the time I was 10, so this new knowledge meant that I would someday have to take alternate courses to obtain my foodstuffs.  Would my new, more northern town have that watered-down apple juice that was always on sale for 99 cents?  Would they have those great Buy One, Get one Free sells, which they would market with the catchy name "BOGOF" (with commercials playing on the phonetic similarities between that acronym and "bug off")?  Would they have the wide aisles and well-stocked shelves to which I'd grown accustomed?  Would THEY be as good?

The answer to all of those questions: A big resounding no.  Gristedes cashiers would likely laugh in my face if I even suggested the "BOGOF" concept, and I think even pennies now cost more that 99 cents at Food Emporium or Whole Foods!  As for wide aisles and shelves -- well, the latter may not be as well-stocked as I would like; but at least you can typically reach them while still standing in the former, as the entire Manhattan store is typically as large as my hometown Kroger's pizza station.  So as a foodie who loves a nice trip to a good market, a little bit of Kroger remains inside of me to this day.  It is the grocery store to which I now and will likely forever compare all others.  That being the case, you can only magine my dismay when I read the following today on the AP wire:

Gay newspaper pulled from Kroger stores in Nashville

Associated Press - June 12, 2007 2:25 PM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A gay and lesbian newspaper has been removed from the racks at Kroger stores around Nashville, Tennessee.

A spokeswoman explains that the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain has a policy against distributing publications with political, religious or other specific agendas. She says the company needs to remain neutral.

The publisher of the monthly publication Out and About says the decision smacks of anti-gay discrimination.

A company that distributes free publications says it was a mistake that the newspaper was ever placed at Kroger stores.

But Out and About's supporters complain that another gay and lesbian paper is allowed on the stands at Krogers around Atlanta.

Yes, my beloved former flame is involved in a heated tiff with some in the Nashville gay community, because of their yanking of a pro-gay publication from the free newspaper shelves that are typically found at all of their stores.  And considering they absolutely do carry other publications that cater to specific audiences, it does all seem a little shady and even gay-unfriendly.

Oh say it ain't so, K-Dog!  Didn't this gay boy read enough of your magazines (which I never proceeded to buy)?  Didn't I eat enough of your free pizza samples, sometimes going back for thirds or even fourths?  Why you gotta go and hurt me now, Kro to the Ger?

But you know what?  Since this writer is now a damn Yankee who is really too far removed from the whole deal to know all of the nuances, you should probably go check out Out & About at the link below to learn more about the situation (including how some are protesting the decision).  While you're busy doing that, I plan to go tuck myself in the fetal position, rock back and forth, hum the "Let's go Krogering" jingle, and ponder the possibility that my internal organs were weaned on biased foodstuffs.  ::sigh::

Kroger officially says ‘no’ to distributing GLBT newspaper [Out & About]

**SEE ALSO: In this piece from the Nashville Scene, it is speculated that religious conservative complaints led to the removal.  Also, the issue of whether NYC -- a shareholder in Kroger -- should remove their funds if the company is found to be acting in a discriminatory fashion.

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Your thoughts

How funny - I covered this today too. Kroger isn't just a southeastern phenom anymore, btw. They're the predominent grocery chain here in Indiana. The California stores went on strike a few years ago, I remember. The company headquarters is in Cincinnati (notably non-gay friendly!) and according to the company site "the largest grocery chain in the United States." They also run stores under about ten other names now. According to the site, they also have KroPAC - they're political action committee to make "modest" contributions to politicians. Wonder who's getting the money?

Posted by: Bil Browning | Jun 12, 2007 10:44:01 PM

Yes, Kroger runs several other stores such as Ralph's in California and Fred Meyer and QFC here in the Pacific NW. I've even used my old Kroger card from NC at QFC to get the sale prices before.

As for KroPAC, I imagine it's like most corporate PACs in that it donates money to candidates who align with Kroger's business interests. That would be whoever supports or opposes possible changes in laws or regulations having to do with the grocery and retail industries, which in general probably have little to do with anything LGBT actually.

Fortunately, the donations PACs make are public. For example, see this URL for 2006 contributions:

http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/expend.asp?strID=C00059238&Cycle=2006

Lots of 'mo hating Republicans unfortunately, although KroPAC probably supported them for other reasons.

Posted by: Jeff | Jun 13, 2007 4:44:44 AM

As a Texan, I'm very familiar with Kroger too. I wonder, though, if magazines such as Newsweek were also pulled since the statement from the corporation indicated that political agendas were also on the "no-no" list? And I know that in my own local Kroger Supercenter, the highly religious "Left Behind" series can be purchased. It doesn't sound to me that the Nashville store was seriously adhering to any corporate policy.

Posted by: Kristen | Jun 13, 2007 11:41:39 AM

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