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Group hopes to open community-owned grocery store

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Many people who live in northeast Greensboro call it a food desert, some recounting tales of having to walk two miles simply to buy a piece of fresh produce.

Longtime resident John Jones says the area has been a food desert ever since the Winn Dixie grocery store on Phillips Avenue closed in 1998.

“It was much easier when we had that Winn Dixie store,” Jones said. “Because we could buy all of our products there.”

But since 1998, Jones says he and other northeast Greensboro residents have had to travel at least two miles to get to the nearest grocery store.

He has a car, so says it is only inconvenient and not impossible. But others, like Brenda Hughes, do not have a car and say the lack of a grocery store in walking distance is a major burden.

“We really just need a grocery store,” Hughes said. “I need a grocery store where I can just walk. It’s more convenient for me to have a grocery store right here in the neighborhood.”

So residents like Jones and Hughes have come together, with about 300 other people from northeast Greensboro. They’ve pooled their money, and are hoping to open a grocery store of their own in the former Winn Dixie building, that they’ll call Renaissance Community Coop.

Jones is the president of the group’s Board of Directors. He says the idea of having a crowd-funded, community-owned grocery store is an innovative solution that they are pioneering.

“People are monitoring us from all over the United States,” he said. “Because this has never been done in the sense of a full service grocery store coop.”

Jones says all money made at the store will go toward charitable causes in the northeast Greensboro community.

He also says the store will employ locals at living wages. Anyone interested can give $100 now to become an “owner-member.”

That designation means they will be entitled to discounts at the grocery store, and will be able to vote to determine what will be done with the store’s profit.

So far, Renaissance Community Coop has raised $1.06 million, according to Jones, but he says they will need about $600,000 more.

He’s hoping to get that money in loans and grants from the City of Greensboro, or through more private donations. He expects the store to open around October 2015.

For more information on the Renaissance Coop, visit renaissancecoop.com

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