Enlightened in Darkness

Written By:
Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
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I thought I was prepared. Like most New Jerseyans, my husband and I had been following news of Hurricane Sandy and did everything we could to meet her head on. The patio furniture was secured, an über-load of clothing was laundered, the bare essentials were stockpiled, ice packs were in the freezer, and food that could be eaten cold was prepared.

But as we hunkered down on that dark Monday evening, an uneasy feeling came over me. With the wind whistling loudly under the front door and trees breaking outside, I could feel the house shaking under my feet. “All this, and we’re 20 miles inland!” I thought. Keeping our charged cell phones and flashlights in arm’s reach, my husband and I turned in for the night with our young son between us and the dog at our feet. If something bad was going to happen, at least we’d all be together.

The next morning greeted us, shockingly, with a fully powered home and a dry basement. We were incredibly lucky to be one of the few Jersey households not to be in the dark. Still, things were devastating outside. We could now clearly see neighbors’ houses, where tall trees had once filled our view. Transformers had blown, homes and cars were crushed by fallen trees, and traveling was severely limited due to blocked roads and an inability to purchase gasoline. I’m talking lines of 100+ cars snaking around streets to get to a pump that may or may not have gas after a two-hour wait.

For a week after Sandy left her mark, the WholeFoods offices were without power and phones. We wondered how we could ever get this issue into your hands, as the staff feverishly tried to finish our stories from coffee shops, friends’ homes or wherever power could be found. In the end, we were determined to get this issue to you on time, and with the same quality we deliver every month.

As I prepared this month’s Annual Retailer Survey with the insanity of Sandy all around, it became even more striking how, when times are tough, natural products businesses have a way of pulling together and pulling through. As is seen by the data we present from our largest survey ever (see page 20), it’s clear stores have rebounded and are excelling in tough economic times.

Come heck or high water, as we literally saw this month, businesses do what it takes to adjust and keep moving forward. In Sandy’s aftermath, I heard of a natural grocer in hard-hit Ocean, NJ that received an offer of helping hands all the way from a Massachusetts natural grocer. Another store in Princeton, NJ was so dedicated to its shoppers that it escorted customers through dark aisles to help them make their purchases. It was inspiring to hear of the good work of Nourish America, which collected goods for the ravished East Coast. Clif Bar donated a staggering 750,000 bars to the relief efforts, while Plum Organics gave over 150,000 organic meals and snacks for babies, toddlers and kids affected by the storm to Convoy of Hope.

So while our Retailer Survey paints a picture of a truly strong and successful industry, the generous and selfless actions of our members in good times and bad gives us even more color. We are an industry of resilience, innovation and hard work, and our mission is to better the lives of others—no matter what.

To those who are rebuilding in the wake of the storms, our thoughts are with you and we look forward to hearing the good news of your reopening soon. WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2012