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Go-local advocates fuming over rumors of shake-up at Green Hills

Green Hills Market, on South Salina Street in the Valley, has a reputation of supporting local businesses and food producers. Some customers fear that will change as rumors of managerial and administrative changes make the rounds on social media.

Green Hills Market, on South Salina Street in the Valley, has a reputation of supporting local businesses and food producers. Some customers fear that will change as rumors of managerial and administrative changes make the rounds on social media.

— Advocates of the go-local movement in Syracuse were shell-shocked Friday as rumors circulated about an alleged new initiative at Green Hills Market raising concerns the store might scale back it’s emphasis on locally-sourced foods.

A store manager said Friday afternoon he hadn’t heard anything about an alleged “Back to Basics Program” being implemented at the store and didn’t have details about any changes being made at the store.

Yet the Green Hills Market Facebook page underwent several updates late last week, including a new description of the business:

“Green Hills’ history extends back to the 1930s, when Carrie Hawkins opened a roadside farm stand to supplement the dairy’s income during the Great Depression. 76 years later, in a new marketing initiative we are going Back to Basics at Green Hills.”

On Thursday, the store’s Twitter account, @Greenhills1, posted an uncharacteristic emoticon sad face, without explanation. The account typically posts daily store specials and has not been active since Thursday.

Rumors that key players in the family-owned business’ recent efforts to support and promote local food sources had left the company could not be confirmed Friday.

Marty Butts, who operates Small Potatoes Marketing and Sales and has been instrumental in helping small-scale local food businesses expand their market, said he was having trouble separating the facts from fiction on Friday afternoon.

But he added that the store had confirmed products from the four vendors Small Potatoes stocks at Green Hills would stay on the shelves, including Flour City Pasta, Better Brittle, Edible Finger Lakes and Divine Brine products.

“What I can say definitively, is that I have access to and work with about 250 grocery stores around the Northeast, and nobody has done better job of promoting small-scale local business than Green Hills,” Butts said, crediting Gary and Heather Hawkins with spearheading the effort at the store. “I really hope that isn’t changing.”

But other local advocates were less optimistic.

Wild Flower Baking Co. confirmed Friday on Twitter that the vegan baked goods produced in would no longer be distributed at Green Hills – and that it hadn’t been Wild Flower’s decision.

In a Facebook posting, Wild Flour owner Christina Marie announced, “WF got the ax.”

Several other Facebook and Twitter users expressed their disappointment at the rumors that the beloved Valley grocery store, one of the founding businesses of pro-local SyracuseFirst organization, might be re-examining its priorities.

We grapple with whether or not to report on these rumors. Read this week's editorial to learn more about our reasoning behind going to print with this story.

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