To movie buffs around the world, Charlestown is a hotbed of bank robbers and other urban toughs. But to an upscale grocery chain from Texas, the fabled neighborhood is just another promising new place to sell heirloom tomatoes. As the Globe recently reported, Whole Foods Market is in talks to take over several locations of the cheaper Johnnie’s Foodmaster supermarkets — including in Charlestown, the setting for gritty stories like Ben Affleck’s 2010 film “The Town.” The possible deal casts further light on the contrast between the gangster Boston immortalized onscreen and the ever-evolving city that exists in real life.
It’s not just Charlestown. Whole Foods may also take over for Johnnie’s Foodmaster in Somerville, which has long been famous for its ethnic neighborhoods and its throngs of graduate students, but in recent years has emerged as a paradise for hipsters and chowhounds. When supermarket consultant Kevin Griffin tells the Globe, “Boston is a dynamite market for Whole Foods because of the demographics and density and affluence,” local residents should take it as a welcome reminder that the region has weathered a terrible recession better than most of the country.
Still, the loss of stores like Johnnie’s Foodmaster is an undeniable hardship for many customers. And there are other reasons some neighbors in Charlestown and elsewhere fret about the expansion of Whole Foods, which is widely viewed not just as a symbol of gentrification but also an accelerator of housing prices. Even as neighborhoods become wealthier, they still need to be hospitable to businesses that cater to customers across the economic spectrum.
In the meantime, Hollywood should refresh its view of Charlestown and other parts of the region. In time, a new kind of movie plot may emerge — about bank robbers who spend their ill-gotten booty on quinoa and brie.