Everything you need to know about the new Goodwill Grocery Store

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 7:00 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Goodwill is opening a grocery store for the first time and it will be located in the Star City.

The grocery store is part of the Melrose Plaza project which will cost 30 million dollars. It also includes building a fitness center, an adult high school and a banking services.

Market on Melrose will give people in Northwest Roanoke access to fresh food. It will be located in an area that is classified as a food desert.

The transcribed conversation is below:

Question: Can you talk to us about the goodwill grocery store? What do people have to know about this?

“So first of all, the goodwill grocery store is the name of the grocery store is market on Melrose, you will not see the goodwill name or logo prominent in the grocery store, the grocery is operationally going to be run by goodwill. And the overall concept here is to provide a full service grocery store, access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, in an area of the city, which is considered a food desert where people don’t have access to these things easily. And with that, we also want to make sure that people from all areas of the Roanoke area, come and shop with us. It is a grocery store for everyone. But the primary goal is to be located there in that food desert and alleviate a lot of the lack of access to that fresh produce,” said Goodwill Industries of the Valleys COO Mindy Boyd.

Thank you so much for that response. And now this project is just a small part of the entire Melrose Plaza, what else will be coming to that Plaza?

So we’re excited to announce that goodwill will be partnering with the city of Roanoke, as well as nonprofit agencies, and private agencies to really bring together a new community center. We’ve heard feedback, we’ve heard questions and inquiries regarding the grocery store, as Mindy alluded to, but we are also offering a Wellness Center, we want to make sure that individuals in our community can thrive. We want to make sure that, you know Google Health and Wellness providers can provide small group activities. Fitness Center will be there, as well as some preventative services will offer pop up services such as a vaccination clinic. And again, the goal is to reduce health disparities. We also be working with our local banking partner Bank of Baroda Tod, to offer a banking services. So financial literacy, personal and business services as well. We also want to support our small business owners. So we want to make sure that individuals have access to capital, and they have the support they need for financial empowerment. In addition to that, we’re offering an adult high school, so the Excel Center, and the goal is to make sure that we can close the educational gap and offer services and flexible courses for adult learners, they’ll be able to get the high school, state recognized high school diploma, and also dual enrollment and be able to access industry recognized credentials want to meet the needs of the workforce, as well. And then we want to make this a destination hub. There’s so much investment, so much initiatives that are happening right here in the Northwest Community. And so we want to make sure that we offer Speaker Series health expos, job fairs, and a number of cultural programs that are designed to make this a destination hub. Again, this is a part of the Northwest Community. So the Melrose library is still on campus as well as our youth HQ, center. It the goal is to make sure that the Northwest community thrives,” said VP of Business and Community Engagement Zenith Barrett.

So, when it comes to this project, the $30 million is that for just a grocery store or for the entire plaza?

“That is actually the total cost for the entire project. And that’s something that we are projecting and again this the city of Roanoke has already invested $10 million into into the project. So we’re really excited but that is the total costs that we’re estimating for for the project,” said Barrett.

Going back to the grocery store, how will it work? I know a lot of people in the comments were saying are you going to accept use food which I’m sure we’re just jokes, but yeah, will it work?

“Now the grocery store will look very much like any other traditional grocery store. It is not a place where we will accept donated foods as part of our inventory. It will be inventory through a traditional wholesaler. We are partnered with a company by the name of MDI. All the groceries that come into the grocery store will come in through our wholesaler, but we also hope to offer a local component so local farmers, people who have local items made baked goods are things of that nature that they may want to sell, we’ll be looking at helping them produce those items through commercial kitchens so that they can perhaps lift their products out in the grocery store. But it is not a Goodwill store in the traditional sense. It is a full service grocery store as you would, as you would see anywhere else,” responding Boyd.

And how will the prices look like? Well, you try to make the prices affordable?

Absolutely. So one of the very key components of partnering with MDI is showing us how to be an excellent independent grocer that does offer competitive pricing, but also allows you to participate in similar programs that larger grocers offer like loyalty programs, rent couponing, we’re also offer curbside pickup, and delivery options. So all of those things that you’re used to with large scale groceries will be available through our grocery store. And we hope that people will come and engage in all of those programs so that you can take advantage of all the good prices and selection that we’ll have,” explained Boyd.

Why was this project? Why was this project important for Goodwill?

This project is is very important. I mean, this has been years and years of market feasibility studies, you know, we want to be able to be a part of the solution to really eliminate the food desert, that is, you know, that’s plaguing the Northwest Community. But there was a group called Northwest food access, that really spearheaded a lot of the work and research that went into this project. And again, we want to be a part of that solution to really bring this to fruition in order for us to eliminate the food desert,” said Barrett.

And I’m glad you brought that up the food desert Can one of you explain what a food desert is?

“So a food desert is an area in a large community where access to good nutrition is absent. So in the Northwest Community access to nutritious foods and having those options, it’s a distance to get there. And also transportation is a challenge, it’s very difficult or oftentimes takes a long time for someone to reach a destination that has those offerings. And in those areas, you often see that health conditions are increased. So in the Northwest market, we see that the life expectancy is less than their neighboring zip codes, we see that things like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, those are more prevalent in that community. And so how can we bring this inside the community to give them those options. And also Zenith mentioned not only have the options, but teach them how to infuse those into their cooking, bring this as a piece of their community that becomes a hub for overall improvement for their health and their lifestyles,” said Boyd.