By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
On the ninth day of Black History Month and on “National Pizza Day,” Reggio’s Pizza president/CEO John Clark Tuesday said he is disappointed that Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. has discontinued his product from their stores, ending a 23-year business relationship.
“Reggio’s Pizza is a 44-year-old African American family business enterprise. Reggio’s happens to be the only African American frozen pizza manufacturer in the United States.
“The company is located in the West Chatham community of Chicago where it employs a diverse workforce from the community of African American and Hispanics and where unemployment is extremely high, nearly 40 percent,” he said.
A strong supporter of Reggio’s Pizza, Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger said, “As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important that we not only celebrate the great accomplishments of the past but support the African American accomplishments of the present. John Clark, owner of Reggio’s Pizza, is one of these.”
“We must make sure that we support him and allow him to continue to be successful,” Pfleger stated.
When contacted, Jim Cohn, a spokesperson for Walgreens, said, “We have reached out to folks at Reggio’s to conduct an additional 60-day test” but have not yet heard from them.
Asked about this test Walgreens conducted on Reggio’s Pizza, Cohn said, “We continually review every product category as far as their performance and demand. It is essential for every supplier we do business with. The test we conducted resulted in a not strong demand.”
Cohn said the test was done over a 90-day period in 30 stores; however, he did not know if those stores were on the South or West Sides of Chicago.
“Everything is evaluated for performance,” Cohn said. “The test period conducted reflected a not strong consumer demand.”
In reaction to Walgreens’ response, Mr. Clark said, “Reggio’s showing during the 90-day test Walgreens made a net profit of nearly $100,000. That was a strong showing of customer demand.
“We are just hearing today about doing another 60-day test. No other retailer in the country except Walgreens requires us to take a test, which is extremely burdensome. We have been in business for over 44 years,” said Clark.
NAACP Chicago South Side Chapter President Attorney Rose Joshua said, “Underperformance and the questionable test of consumer demand is Walgreens’ rhetoric utilized to undermine African American businesses especially Reggio’s Pizza.”
Peter Kennedy, Food Spoke Committee co-chairperson for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition International Trade Bureau, wasn’t pleased at all with Cohn’s rationale for shutting out Reggio’s Pizza after 23-years. “This statement appears to be a standard stick put off.”
“I completely agree with Mr. Clark that doing another “test” after passing the “30” thirty store citywide test is an unfair burden,” said Kennedy.
“Walgreen’s needs to use a level playing field where all vendors are treated the same. What other vendors are required after 23 years to ‘re-prove’ their product’s value to be in Walgreens stores?
“Reggio’s is not a start-up business and Walgreens is treating them as if they do not have a positive track record and we doubt this is done to other companies with the years of service in Walgreens like Reggio’s,” stated Kennedy.
“We at the RPC Trade Bureau are very, very concerned about this grave decision that Walgreens has made. We do not agree with this treatment of Reggio’s Pizza at all. And we want to meet with the CEO of Walgreens about this to determine how our community will treat Walgreens because of this mistreatment of one of our valuable job creating community members,” stated Kennedy. “This decision must be reversed immediately.”
“It is sad that an institution such as Reggio’s Pizza will be discontinued at Walgreens because it does not seem fit to honor diversity in manufacturing,” Kennedy stated.
“It is sad that we have to fight so hard to get Walgreens to recognize that Reggio’s Pizza is well liked and respected. We will not sit by idly and let Walgreens believe that there will not be a response to this outrage.”
Kennedy said he is reaching out to Senator Durbin and wants Walgreens Boots Alliance to meet with PUSH officials and explain why this “Switzerland-based company came into the Black community and made such a call as this.”
Walgreens is no stranger to public outrage for in August 2014, Walgreens was threatening to move its corporate office to Europe to reduce its tax bill a process called tax inversion that back then President Barack Obama called “unpatriotic” and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) then threatened a boycott if Walgreens moved. Reportedly, the store stayed only because they felt the U.S. IRS would never approve of the inversion plan.