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October 15th, 2013
Boxcar Grocers Feed Their Atlanta Community
KIND partnered with the Plywood Presents conference in Atlanta, Georgia to gather a group of pioneers in business and social entrepreneurship. Presenters were chosen to “instigate dialogue as doers of unthinkable action.” Here, we share a few of their powerful messages. This presentation was reported and written by Deborah Lubbe of Plywood.
Reframing traditional expectations often leads to some very unique surprises. Boxcar Grocer is an independent market, which stocks local, whole foods, and serves as, “the intersection of food justice and high-concept retail” in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood of Atlanta. A dynamic brother and sister duo, Alphonzo and Alison Cross transformed the 249 Peters Street storefront into a space where surrounding communities could have a wide variety of locally-sourced health foods available. With a combined background in retail marketing, fashion and architecture, the two set out to make a statement.
Having noticed that the Castleberry community area did not have a viable source for healthy food options within a 20-mile radius, they crafted the idea to open a shop specializing in nutritious foods; sourced from local farm and bakery partnerships in the Atlanta area.
However, this is not just a simple store! It’s a beautifully designed and inviting space for residents to come eat, get a cup of coffee and enjoy the labors of local farmers.
Boxcar Grocer hopes to become a micro-community and food-sourcing center for the surrounding diverse neighborhoods. As Alphonzo and Alison began operation of the Boxcar Grocer, they found that the access to quality food in the area wasn’t a resource issue, but rather a community development issue. Small communities thrive on new businesses where residents feel safe, and provide space where they can contribute. Where there is kinship.
One way to address this issue was to create a fun way for local residents to engage in the product decision-making process. They provided a suggestion box where customers can leave their feedback on current products, and ideas for new items. Being intentional within the community has given the store the fuel to thrive in an area where transformation and growth have been limited.
Long term, the Cross team would like to expand and offer other stores that serve additional dense urban neighborhoods. They envision one store purposed as the hub or distribution center, while smaller stores serve as the as the missing piece of food sources within those inner-city neighborhoods. Through this model, residents will have access to not only local food, but also to a network of other communities in the Atlanta area.
Gisele Nelson Contributor
Gisele is the Execution Specialist for Plywood People. She writes for and manages the Plywood Blog, sells Billboard Bags and generally tries to keep things in order. She loves to read, write, play the piano, drink delicious coffee and listen to great stories.http://www.plywoodpeople.com/