As the saga continues with the coronavirus pandemic, metro Atlantans are starting to look toward local options for food security, one’s that they can trust and rely on.
Local grocery stores have emerged as the unsung heroes during this time, especially stores that offer fresh and healthy options for residents. While not categorized as such, many of them see themselves as essential businesses for their communities.
According to Forbes, grocery stores have benefited from the pandemic. Grocery stores–even local, smaller neighborhood ones–are thriving, with a 32 to 62 percent increase in revenue for most chains across the country.
Sevananda Natural Foods Market in Little Five Points is a part of the fray, supplying organic foods to residents in the area. The store remained open during the pandemic, existing as Atlanta’s only co-op grocery market.
“One of the things that Sevanada is known for is its community embrace,” said Ahzjah Netjer Simons, cooperative director and general manager. “We cannot show physical embrace or have conversations in the aisle with the customers. Now we are practicing social distancing. We have a 25 person minimum in-store to help customers feel safe. We are still smiling and friendly to our customers but from a distance.”
The store has been around since 1974, starting out as a nonprofit and eventually converting to a co-op grocery market.
Over the years, customers have enjoyed visiting the wellness department for advice on bulk raw herbs, vitamins, and ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, with COVID 19, customers cannot purchase in bulk with the scoops.
Since the pandemic, Sevananda has shifted to pre-packaged items of the bulk herbs and changed older routines. The hot bar has recently also transitioned into grab and go food.
“Lately Irish Moss and all forms of Elderberry have sold very quickly. The bulk herbs are selling well and we also have short videos on the website on how to use them. Water is still the number one seller and fresh produce,” Simon said.
Carver Neighborhood Market in Lakewood Heights, Westview Corner Grocery, Candler Park Market, Grant Park Market and Third Street Goods, a small grocery store and bar located in The Beacon, a new and trendy shopping plaza in Atlanta’s Grant Park area, have all also seen an increase in business due to the pandemic.
“There’s been an increased emphasis on food preparation and selling since the pandemic began,” said Kathryn DiMenichi, co-owner of Third Street Goods. “We’ve had to adapt by shutting down the bar and focusing more on the food side of things. We had to shut down our bar to comply with COVID-19 rules…the cost margins for retail grocery are very high, we are essentially not making a profit. We are able to buy products and pay our employees.”
A couple of weeks ago, Third Street Goods was the only business that remained open in The Beacon during the pandemic, specializing in handcrafted foods, salads, and spirits not traditionally served in regular grocery stores.
It, like many other businesses, has adapted to a change in its daily operations, including stricter sanitary practices like wearing masks and gloves, as well as expanding their online presence and creating a delivery service. The latter actually covers five zip codes in the metro area.
“We now offer curbside deliveries to limit contact, ready-made dinners for four, and are looking to expand our food services even more. You’re never too good to change,” DiMenichi said.
Additionally, the store limits how many products people are allowed to purchase per customer, allowing fair distribution, and avoiding shelf depletion seen in bigger stores now devoid of items like paper towels, meat, cleaning supplies, and meat since the onset of the outbreak.
“I feel like them staying afloat really comes from being a part of the community, I think they wisely saw changes were going to have to happen,” said Dale Reeves, a Grant Park resident and patron. “The bigger stores like Kroger and Target are miles away in Edgewood, and it’s really convenient to be able to grab a few items, a snack, or dinner in walking distance.”
Said Simon, “The relationships between the customers and staff are valuable and we take them seriously” A lot of the staff members are very passionate about what they do, they care and they are heroes and sheroes. They are humanitarians across the board.”