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LaVerde's Sees Price Increases As Market Costs for Food Go Up

By Liz Krams

LaVerde's Market has sometimes come under fire for taking advantage of its status as the only full-service on-campus grocery store. While a recent set of price increases has intensified the dissatisfaction among some, owner Frank LaVerde says that market influences are to blame for the hike.

LaVerde freely admitted that the prices in his store have gone up. The cost of several different foods have increased dramatically in recent months, he said. "Turkey and chicken have skyrocketedŠ cold cuts have gone up 15 to 20 percentŠ grains and grain breads have gone up," he said. The price of bagels has increased for the first time in eight years, and milk and creams have gone up as well as a result of the high price of cow feed, LaVerde said.

For many, even with the price increases, LaVerde's primary asset of convenience remains. Roberto M. Leon G said that LaVerde's is "the place to go" for groceries on campus. Despite the relatively high prices, other shoppers said that the time saved by shopping on-campus was more important than the prices they paid.

Some students, however, said that LaVerde's prices caused them to seek out other alternatives, like off-campus grocery stores, food trucks, and Aramark, MIT's official food services provider. Ioanid Rosu G said that he shops in LaVerde's "only if forced to." Many others called LaVerde's a last resort because of its prohibitively high prices.

But LaVerde said that "by no means" does he see his business as a monopoly. He said that there are other local alternatives that he has to compete with that were used before LaVerde's existed on campus.

Seeing LaVerde's as a monopoly "is the fastest way for me to destroy my business," LaVerde said.

Market shifts cause price increases

LaVerde attributed the most recent set of price changes to market increases for a variety of products. The increases reflect only the higher prices from distributors. "I'm trying to stay even," he said.

MIT's rent for the store and the salaries paid to workers remain unchanged, he said.

LaVerde said that price increases in different categories have been cumulative. The "skyrocketing" milk and cream prices have affected the price of butter, whose price from the distributor has more than doubled. Oil and shortening have also seen higher prices, as has the price of coffee, which has increased to cover the cost of the half-and-half and milk used by customers. The similar increase in the price of cheese has had a direct effect on the price of sandwiches.

LaVerde said that he would "try to do anything" he can to offset" the market fluctuation. To that end, he is presently working to seek out new suppliers and bring in new products to keep prices low. "If I can possibly help the students, I will," LaVerde said.

LaVerde stressed that his store's employees are very approachable and that customers can offer them suggestions for improvements to the store. Customers can also use the suggestion box at the front of the store to make suggestions, he said.