Courtesy of GreenStar's Facebook page

Ithaca, N.Y. — What separates Ithaca from Syracuse could be the subject of a multi-part series, but what caught our eye this week was the cities’ differing reactions to the same news.

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On Wednesday,’s Kevin Tampone reported that the national grocery chain Whole Foods is considering an expansion to a location in Upstate New York, including Syracuse.

The next day, we reported pretty much the same story — that Whole Foods was eyeing different Upstate New York locations, including Ithaca.

A Whole Foods in Ontario, Canada. Courtesy ChadPerez49/Wikimedia
A Whole Foods in Ontario, Canada. Courtesy ChadPerez49/Wikimedia

The reaction from the two publications’ readers, however, could scarcely have been more different.

Here’s a sampling from’s Facebook page:

— “Yayyyyy!!!”

—  “Yes please”

— “It’s about time!”

— “Always excited to have another source for REAL food in Syracuse.”

— “Please bring whole foods. People who want to buy healthy conscious food need a place to shop. In my experience Whole Foods is the same price as wegmans, even cheaper with some things.”

And from The Voice’s:

— “No I do not want a whole foods store in Ithaca, we have so many food stores as it is and the big chains like Walmart and Target are expanding their food sections.”

— “Nooooooooooo! We need socially conscious businesses in Ithaca, ones that respect the rights of it’s employees, pays living wages and honors workers’ rights to organize.”

— “Huge multinational corporations have no place in a community that is trying its damnedest to be sustainable, independent, and locally focused.”

— “We absolutely do NOT need Whole Foods. I am very familiar with the SF Whole Foods and I do not believe they would be good for us.”

Now, to be fair, there were a few commenters in Syracuse criticizing Whole Foods, and a few commenters in Ithaca applauding it.

But if this unscientific overview is any indication, there’s a lot more support for the upscale, organic-centric grocery store in the Land of the Orange than the Land of the Big Red.

Why would that be? At first, it seems almost counter-intuitive: Wouldn’t Ithaca be more likely to embrace Whole Foods’ unsubtle appeal to Blue America?

There could be a number of other factors at work — differences in purchasing power; Ithaca’s greater emphasis on shopping locally; Syracuse’s dependence on driving.

My bet, though, is that it’s actually a good deal simpler than any of these explanations. Opposition to Whole Foods in Ithaca and the lack of opposition to it in Syracuse, I’d say, comes down to a single variable: The GreenStar Natural Foods Market.

With multiple locations in the city and a loyal customer base, GreenStar and its distinctively Ithaca charm likely sucks up all or most of shoppers who would otherwise welcome a Whole Foods.

I’ll let the commenters do the work again:

— “love Greenstar. They are us, they are OUR community. I enjoy Real Foods when I’m back in CA (when there is no other choice) but we need Greenstar, not a corporate model moving in on us.”

— “No way. Support Greenstar instead, go local. And even supporting Wegmans is more local (New York) than Whole Foods. Support our local economy first.”

Courtesy of GreenStar's Facebook page
Courtesy of GreenStar’s Facebook page

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.