Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nam's Takes Over

The sidewalk on Franklin just north of St. John's grows ever smaller, squeezing pedestrians between the Scylla that is Skywatch (it could be a mythical beast--just squint a little when you look at it) and the Charybdis of construction at Nam's Green Market.

Nam's, which made waves when it went organic about fifteen months ago, is one of the staples of my ongoing love affair with Franklin Avenue. It's open 24 hours. They take credit cards over 10 bucks. They have tons of fresh produce and great deals, such as enormous bunches of basil for two-fifty or four limes for a dollar (I realize I'm painting myself as a hopelessly bourgeois gentrifier here. To invoke the reflexive property, it is what it is). They have all manner of organic items and products, including a new line of tasty prepared meals for $4.99. They've got flowers for your lady. The staff is friendly. Did I mention that they're open twenty-freakin'-four hours a day? These guys are the best.

The one slight issue with Nam's, which simultaneously lends the place charm and renders it almost impossible to navigate, is it's teeny-tiny aisles, and it looks likes more narrow straits are on the way as the outdoor produce section, previously open-air, gets boxed in by metal and glass. When I spoke with the guys there today, they informed me that the motive for the renovation was both increased space (they're extending their outdoor bays on either side of their corner, both north on Franklin and east on St. John's, as visible in the first and third photos above) and reduced shoplifting (the occasional enterprising young'un makes off with a peach or a bouquet, as I learned). In addition, they'll be adding an entrance on the St. John's side of things, which will be accessed through the double doors that sit right on the corner. I have no idea where the register will go, and neither do they, from the sound of it, but as their renovations thus far have been impressive, I'm not doubting them. Besides, some of the friendliest interactions I have on the avenue are the bits and pieces exchanged as I try to slide past someone for a block of tofu.


  1. I hate Nams - they are one of a handful of local Franklin Ave establishments charging Manhattan prices. Please stay away from this place, unless you want Franklin Ave. to become as expensive as Williamsburg (also, if you like the idea of pushing out the lower classes so that they do not have a reasonable place to shop and live).

  2. I just saw a sign at Nam's this morning announcing that they will no longer be accepting food stamps in two weeks time, thereabouts. When they made the move to introduce organic groceries over the past year, I admit I was somewhat excited. However, I was soon dismayed by the reaction this change elicited from some members of the community. On numerous occasions I've heard customers - who have probably been shopping at Nam's long before I moved to the neighborhood - angrily storm out of the store. Usually it is over some small, presumed slight but in large part I think it is in response to the store's somewhat obvious preference for certain clientele (i.e. Nam's is clearly positioning itself as a grocer for the newer residents in the neighborhood).

    The move to faze out food stamps at Nam's strikes me as extremely unfortunate and potentially incendiary. For starters, I don't relish the added tension this will engender between the gentrifiers and the old neighborhood. Frankly, I worry there will be a backlash, against Nam's first and foremost but also potentially against newer residents of the neighborhood. Also, Nam's is virtually the only store in the neighborhood with decent produce and discontinuing food stamps will now make it that much more difficult for families to buy healthy foods.

    Anyone else seen the sign? Thoughts? Is it worth trying to contact the owners to talk them out of turning away customers with food stamps? Honestly, I can't see how it can be a good business practice to turn away customers, many of whom have probably been loyal to your store for years...

  3. Hey guys (or gals--I don't know),

    Thanks for the comments. I've got a long post addressing them up top. I don't think Nam's is a bad thing, but I do think their presence and business plan pinpoints a lot of hard questions about the neighborhood. Keep me posted with your thoughts.