Monday, April 15, 2024

NHC Endowment invests nearly $6.8 million for Northside grocery store

The location of the Northside Food Cooperative at 10th and Post streets. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — The New Hanover Community Endowment announced today it is investing $6,792,000 over three years in the construction and operation of the Northside Food Cooperative, a startup grocery store aimed at revitalizing and bringing healthy food access to the Northside neighborhood.

READ MORE: Cost escalates for Northside grocery store, county seeks partners for financial help

This funding request was part of the 2023 strategic grant applications, but was not announced with the rest of the award recipients. According to the endowment, the opportunity “required additional engagement and learning before making the investment.”

“This is the first step toward eradicating a 35-year-old food desert on Wilmington’s Northside,” said Bill Cameron, chairman of the New Hanover Community Endowment board. “We’re excited to invest in grassroots solutions like the Northside Food Cooperative and look forward to partnering with them and New Hanover County to bring a grocery store to the community.”

Located at 10th and Post streets, The Northside Food Cooperative will be a small-format, full-line store, selling primarily conventional groceries — mainly name brands that customers are familiar with — with an emphasis on fresh departments like produce, meat and seafood.

The Northside Food Co-op will run day-to-day operations once the store is open. The organization’s goal is to partner with some regional farmers it has connected with through its farmers markets for the grocery store.

“Our goal is to not only create a convenient destination where residents can buy fresh food, but to enhance and invigorate the Northside community,” said Dorian Cromartie, chair of the Northside Food Cooperative board. “We are thrilled the Endowment has invested in this too-often forgotten historical community. The residents here have needed and been promised a store for decades. Finally, with the Endowment’s substantial help, these dreams will be realized.”

The store is located on land the City of Wilmington donated to the effort in August 2022. The area has been considered a food desert for 30-plus years. The community has been told a grocery store was on the way for decades, though multiple efforts failed in their attempts.

In 2022, the New Hanover County commissioners hired grocery consultant Seven Roots for $70,000 to assist Northside Food Coop with store planning and design, project management, equipment selection, communications and more. The plan was for the consultant will stay on until the doors open, to assist with staff training, merchandising and operations.

In its fiscal year 2024 budget preperations, New Hanover County commissioners set aside $7.3 million for construction, equipment and initial inventory on a 6,000 to 8,000-square-foot building, as well as an access road connecting Post and Anderson streets.

In May 2023, PCD reported the county was hoping to identify some public and private partners to offset a portion of the investment. The Endowment’s investment will cover construction and design costs as well as provide capital to open the store.

“We are thrilled that the Endowment has chosen to provide funding that will support the Northside Food Co-op over the next three years,” commissioner Chair Bill Rivenbark said in a press release. “This financial commitment is crucial in helping the ongoing partnership between New Hanover County and the Northside Food Co-op to address the food desert that has long impacted this community.”

In a press release, the Endowment described the Northside grocery store as pivotal for community development and provides easy access to fresh, nutritious food, combating food deserts and promoting healthier lifestyles. Additionally, it is a driver of economic growth, creating jobs and supporting local farmers and vendors. In essence, it champions food access, community development and resilience.

“This is more than a grocery store,” said Lakesha McDay, executive vice president of programs and operations at the New Hanover Community Endowment. “This was a promise made to the community decades ago. It is very exciting to team up with New Hanover County and the Northside Food Cooperative to make it a reality.”

The grocery store is currently in the planning and development phase with construction scheduled to commence in 2025 and a grand opening in early 2026.

The Northside Food Cooperative and its neighbors will celebrate this major milestone Thursday at their Northside Community Dinner. The dinners are a free opportunity to enjoy a meal, connect with the community, and learn more about the project. The dinner will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at 901 Fanning St. and is open to the public.

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