May 30, 2014; News & Observer

NPQ is excited about the alternative enterprises popping up all over the country. In this case, it is a grocery sponsored by two churches and aided by a Whole Foods market.

Ship of Zion Ministries and Hope Community Church see the new nonprofit grocery store they partnered in developing as a part of their ministry to the neighborhood. The area in Southeast Raleigh is a food desert, with only a few convenience stores since two Kroger’s stores left 18 months ago.

The 900-foot Galley Grocery Store stocks fruits and vegetables, dairy, and staples such as canned goods and baking supplies—basics that local residents typically can’t buy locally. The store will accept SNAP and WIC benefits.

As the nonprofit store grows, the organizers want it to help anchor the neighborhood as a gathering place and a source of job opportunities and training. The store will not sell alcohol or tobacco and is considering offering cooking and gardening classes.

Ship of Zion and Hope Community Church have long worked together on other community benefit projects around food, healthcare, and economic development, but in this case they also got assistance from Dan Thomas, the store team leader at the Whole Foods Market in Cary. Thomas helped give them the basics of how to run a store, as well as sourcing materials like shelving, coolers and furniture.

When we talk about social enterprise, these kinds of efforts, based not in a self-promoting superstar but in responsive institutions meeting the needs of a community, stand out as grounded and the wave of a rational economic future. In this store, snacks are in the back, with the fresh produce and staples up front. And, perhaps, personalities are in the back, with the community up front.—Ruth McCambridge