Monday, May 6, 2019

Healthy Food, Unhealthy Impacts

The proposal now before the Livingston Planning Board may be one of the most paradoxical we've seen in these parts. It's essentially a mega-fueling station, with sixteen spots for cars needing gasoline and three pumps for vehicles--mostly tractor-trailer trucks--requiring diesel fuel. But at the Livingston Planning Board meeting last week, Rob Osterhoudt of Bohler Engineering told the residents that it was a "misconception" to characterize what is proposed as a truck stop. Instead, it was "a neighborhood market with fuel service."

This claim piqued my curiosity about Alltown Fresh, the chain that would be occupying the proposed facility. A simple visit to the company website yielded the information that the chain now has two locations: the first was in Auburn, New Hampshire; the second in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The website also indicates that Alltown Fresh will be opening this spring in Waterbury, Connecticut, and this summer in Camden, Connecticut.

A little more investigation revealed that in Auburn, its first location, Alltown Fresh seems to have taken over an existing Sunoco station and "travel plaza."

Google maps show that, in Auburn, the Sunoco station that is now Alltown Fresh is in close proximity to the local Burger King.

Google maps show that in Plymouth the Alltown Fresh location (22 Long Pond Road) is in a very densely developed area with lots of asphalt and other gas stations and chain businesses nearby.

The Alltown Fresh "story," as told on their website, is interesting:
Our story is really your story. It's a story about people's eating preferences trending towards healthy, fresh food. As a customer-driven company, we decided to launch a new brand to meet the needs of people who don't want to sacrifice healthy, fresh food choices for convenience. Introducing Alltown Fresh™, the fresh convenience market. Alltown Fresh™ offers communities healthy, fresh food choices and made-to-order meals--including organic, natural, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and locally sourced alternatives--all in a rush free environment where neighbors can hang out with one another. Alltown Fresh™ is the first fresh convenience market in America to offer fresh food choices, as well as gas/diesel, a cafe, bean-to-cup coffee, outdoor seating, groceries, craft beer (when permitted), wifi, pet relief areas, traditional snack options, phone and electric car charging stations. It's time to get fresh!
The Alltown Fresh menu can be viewed hereThe Alltown Fresh in Plymouth, Massachusetts, got this review on Yelp: "The best convenient store that has ever existed in the history of ever. The coffee, sandwiches, sparkling water and kombucha machine, just magical. There needs to be one of these everywhere." It does sound like the kind of place you would want to encounter on a road trip, perhaps in a service area on the thruway.

Although Alltown Fresh is a new thing, Alltown convenience stores are not. There are more than seventy of them located throughout New England. It seems clear that this is a convenience store chain trying to keep itself relevant (and profitable) by catering to new diet trends--not unlike Stewart's Shops and its effort to expand into the fast-growing "food-to-go" market. What makes this particular proposal paradoxical and inappropriate is the location. It is not converting an existing convenience store in the "travel plaza," as was the case in Auburn, New Hampshire. It is not locating in a site already ruined by extensive commercial development. Rather it is new construction on an undeveloped site that is now an open green field not far, in the very vehicles that require the fuel offered, from three farm stands and a supermarket.

Residents who are opposed to the project have concerns about the environmental impacts, particularly the potential for damage to wetlands, streams, and ground water sources. They are concerned about the aesthetics of what is proposed and its intrusion into views from neighboring properties. They are also concerned about the negative impact of this proposed commercial development on the character of this stretch of highway, which now offers drivers a primarily pastoral scene, including fields and horse paddocks. The paradox of siting an Alltown Fresh at this crossroads seems a little like destroying a rain forest to grow organic bananas.


  1. And it would generate more commercial sprawl.

  2. That lot has been for sale for as long as I can remember... I’d guesstimate there has been a FOR SALE sign there for 15 or even 20 years. Shame some of the concerned neighbors, (such as the one whose husband owned an oil company) might have bought it to protect themselves.

  3. These developments are in the offing all around us. I was approached a few months ago by a real estate agency representing Farm Stores, to take over my property which is on the truck route and in a good location for a commercial business. Farm Stores isn't a truck stop but it does have a drive through for non-fast-food and groceries.

  4. I couldn't agree with you more, Sam. But now that it's happening, it behooves us to encourage the Planning Board to require Global to provide a building that serves the needs and enhances the look of our town––not a roadside franchise.

  5. It should be noted that the Livingston Planning Board years ago wrote into legislation that no new development should be approved if it had a negative impact on any existing business operations (as read to the assembled at the last Planning Board open hearing). The owner of the stud farm just across the street said in no uncertain terms that this operation would have a negative impact on his business because the proposed entrance and 18-wheeler parking would be right across the street from his main gate. People come to his farm from around the world to breed their horses.

  6. This proposal sounds like the mega gas/food monolith recently constructed at the Canaan NY exit rte 22 on the Berkshire spur - also sited across the street from an existing fuel/food enterprise.

  7. I agree this project should be heavily scrutinized for its impact on many things. However, I'm not sure your claim that the diesel pumps would be used by "mostly tractor-trailer trucks" is accurate. There are many, many, diesel pick up trucks (and other vehicles) in our area, and as a contractor, we have one. There is already diesel at the intersection, so I don't see this adding more trucks in any way. And "primarily pastoral views" is a stretch. Mobil home park, school, converted motel, Alvarez Modulars, Ben Funk Auto, Farm Stand, Abandoned Pizza place, Williams Lumber, Wards Auto, Farm Stand, Insurance/Used Cars, Boat Storage, etc. And unfortunately a number of the places in Hudson that existed just a few years ago that offered good quality and were reasonably priced spots for breakfast/lunch have disappeared (Earth Foods, Relish, Park Falafel, Bonfiglio). I enjoy and prefer quality food, however I can't afford $10.75 breakfast sandwiches at The Maker very often.

    1. Forgot to mention, if you look closely, or check out the street view of the Auburn location, there is not actually a Burger King or any other structure where it is noted. Maybe a future location? Also, the Alltown sells Sunoco gas, so not sure they repurposed anything.

  8. Global Partners/Alltown representatives were gushing about their fresh food idea at the meeting, saying they would be successful because that's where the market is going. Really? But maybe not for Livingston/Hudson. Not mentioned once at the hearing was the collapse of the Subway enterprise two or three miles up the road at the very busy intersection of 9H and 23. Subway pioneered the fresh food idea; they have valuable name recognition in this area, and yet they failed here. Did Alltown do any market research? They also said, incongruously that they would benefit from Hudson's restaurant glow. Really, a truck stop somehow piggybacking from its antithesis ten miles away?

  9. What kind of diet is tofu and apple wood smoked bacon together in a sandwich? It's not vegan or vegetarian.
    If this is any indication of the firm's know how, I'm cringing already. I'm acquainted with menus looking fairly OK by description but the real deal a grand disappointment. I call it a Staging like the phony furniture in a house-for-sale pitch. The Plymouth location is a typical heavily developed zone with chains. I foresee what's ahead for this vulnerable spot if approved. That's how it starts. Every time. From there on, if neighboring towns don't have Comp Plans with clearly stated restrictions on chain franchises, they'll be next. Such is life in NJ. So dense with this type of development, can't make out where a township begins or ends. It started by purchasing farmland/open tracts. The easy targets. The Columbia Conservancy, doing an amazing job, hopefully, has such sites on their list.

  10. Elizabeth Nyland pointed out at the last Livingston Public hearing in great detail (and also here in a prior post) the contrast between having a huge gas station and a fresh food type of chain at that intersection. She had studied their other locations and particularily noted the one in
    Plymouth, Mass, surrounded by other commercial enterprises and acres of tarmac. Her insightful comments roused one person to stomp up to the microphone and say he was tired of listening to "crap". I'm glad you are posting this for a wide audience to read. It's great to have fresh food in that location and it has been tried before (remember Alex Lindsay's gourmet food market which didn't work - now an 'I don't know what'. ) However, since there is already a gas station with diesel availabe kitty-corner across the road - why the need for a mega one out of proportion to everything else which may also endanger the ground water sources? Wake up Livingston town board.

  11. I just saw this disturbing reference from "Livingston Concerned Citizens: "The applicant, a Fortune 500 company presently owns a gas station on the opposite corner which they propose to abandon without a plan for cleanup and Maintenance thereby creating an eyesore on our community." In neighboring Taghkanic, we have endured the unsightly mess of an abandoned gas station for over 20 years. A very unpleasant welcome sign for our town. This should not be allowed.

  12. From any point of view the Global Partners plans are flawed. From the environmental to the business point of view it is poorly thought out. The idea that they will draw customers from Hudson is, well silly. The Subway at the 23 and 9H is mostly empty. But smart minds seem in short supply these days when it comes to local or national government issues.