On January 25, 2006, a resident’s group in Coconut Grove, a distinctive village in Miami, Florida, sent a sharply-worded letter to The Coconut Grove Arts Festival Committee, objecting to the arts group’s acceptance of a $25,000 in-kind contribution of kitchen equipment from Home Depot for the Festival’s culinary arts exhibit. The retailer has been locked in an extended battle with Miami residents over a proposed Home Depot big box. The letter from group, The Grove First, said: “We understand through a press release that the 2006 Coconut Grove Arts Festival has accepted a sponsorship by Home Depot. Since they have never sponsored past events, we would like to think that this sponsorship comes as a result of their having been moved to make amends with our community and that this action is part of a larger plan that would include their decision to put their industrial warehouse in another location that would allow for a C2 warehouse and truly leave the Grove as a place for art festivals, parades, marathons, block parties, theatre in the park, waterfront activities and such other events that make our village special. If it is not the case, we see this as their way to ingratiate themselves in our Village. The family of Lester Pancoast graciously turned Home Depot down when they prematurely announced they were going to name the so-called linear park in their alternate set of plans after him because they knew it was not the right thing to do. The sponsorship is shockingly oblivious to the community sentiment. Apparently, the Festival management feels that such sponsorship overrides any concern about the good will of the residents who have vigorously opposed a Home Depot in Coconut Grove. As a Board member of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce, you are aware that they resolved against Home Depot coming to Coconut Grove. By allowing Home Depot to be a sponsor totally disregards and flouts the Chamber’s Resolution and every other Grove organization who has rendered a Resolution. We have attached a list of every Grove organization that has given us a Resolution against Home Depot. In turn, we hope you would understand our sadness and disappointment at knowing that the name of one of the most welcome events and institutions of our community, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, will now be intertwined with that of the most unwelcome industrial warehouse that is also evidenced by over 13,000 petition signatures. We would ask that the Festival reconsider the acceptance of any funding by Home Depot. Accepting Home Depot’s sponsorship serves to create an image that they are welcome in our community. ….and they are not! The residents of Coconut Grove have made, and continue to make clear, their view of Home Depot in our community. What does this give us to look forward to next year — the Home Depot Coconut Grove Arts Festival! We ask you to reconsider sponsorship by Home Depot to the 2006 Coconut Grove Arts Festival. I would be happy to discuss this with you further.” The letter was signed by Marc Sarnoff, one of the founders of The Grove First. According to the Miami Herald, Sarnoff’s letter struck a nerve, and within days, the president of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival president Monty Trainer told Home Depot to keep its contribution of kitchen equipment (which was supplied by its vendors). Trainer explained that his group had hired a consultant to line up sponsors for the Festival. ”When I found out what happened, I realized we had a problem. It’s a huge issue here,” he told the Herald. Trainer said that as soon as he read Sarnoff’s letter, he phoned Home Depot to kill the deal. ‘We wanted to take residents’ feelings into account. We want to be in tune with the Grove.”
Despite the rebuff of their “gift”, Home Depot remains totally out of tune with the Grove. ”We’re still hopeful we can come up with a good plan for the Grove,” a company spokesman told the newspaper. The Miami Commissioners recently voted to restrict
the size of Grove retailers to 70,000 square feet — but the cap will not apply to the proposed Home Depot. According to the Miami Herald article, in 2004, “The Grove First brought in Al Norman, founder of the national anti-big box group Sprawl-Busters, to share his experience in helping hundreds of communities repel big retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and, of course, Home Depot. Norman (or rather, his voice) also appeared in ‘Don’t Box Me In: A Coconut Grove Story,’ Grove First’s film about their ongoing big box battle.” For earlier stories on The Grove’s battle to push Home Depot out of their Village, search Newsflash by “Miami.” There are not too many corporations in America that would continue to push their products on such an unwilling host, but Home Depot has never been known for its sensitivity or its tact. As a reward, they now suffer the public embarrassment of being told to keep their gifts to themselves.