An Open Letter to All Who Want to Talk About Food Access

An Open Letter to All Who Want to Talk About Food Access

Misunderstandings.  They are very often part of how we communicate as human beings.  They are definitely part of our verbal and non-verbal fabric.  Some of us live by them, while others of us work diligently to not ever be misunderstood only to have it happen time and time again.  Entire episodes of Three’s Company were dedicated to gross misunderstandings that dramatically and comically got out of hand.

So how do we combat misunderstanding one another?  Answer:  Communicate better.

So it is armed with my own advice that I wish to wipe away any misunderstandings about The Boxcar Grocer as it as come to our attention that we may not have communicated very well who we are or what we are about.  Here are the facts:

  1. The Boxcar Grocer is a healthy corner store/convenience store NOT a grocery store or supermarket.
  2. The Boxcar Grocer is an actual 3,000 sq/ft store located in downtown Atlanta NOT a food truck.
  3. The Boxcar Grocer retails healthy and local food/grocery products including, but not limited to all natural, tomatoes and toothpaste, honey and hair products, bread and baby food, ice cream and eye cream, dog food and diapers.

Hopefully, these facts won’t be misunderstood and will stand on their own merit.  However, there is one fact that I would like to expound on and that is that The Boxcar Grocer is a multi-store business model.  To stay UN-misunderstood I am going to repeat myself…

The Boxcar Grocer is a multi-store business model.

From the beginning, the plan was to open 1 large “hub” store with 5 “satellite” stores around it in major cities across the United States.  Just as your fingers surround the palm of your hand, so would the smaller “satellite” stores surround the “hub” store.

During the summer of 2009, when we first conceived of this idea, we initially thought we were going to open 1 store and then go back home to San Francisco, but we quickly realized that someone needed to actually solve the problem of food accessibility and scarcity in this country once and for all from a business perspective.  That meant quickly changing gears to put into motion The Plan…  open a minimum of 200 stores across the United States.

Since we believe that we are all in this together; and what that really means is we have an unspoken relationship with one another, it is then essential and imperative that I speak as openly as possible with you as this will further dissolve any misunderstandings about our intentions.

Here we go:  Your average Publix grocery store is approximately 40,000 sq/ft and costs about $7Million dollars to build.  Your average Wal-Mart is approximately 100,000-200,000 sq/ft and can cost $20-$30Million dollars to build (neither of these figures takes into account tax subsidies that local governments give to these companies or the land access issues in more dense environments).  And for those of you who are unclear as to what a tax subsidy is, it is defined as a benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction.

Small businesses like The Boxcar Grocer don’t get any of these tax subsidies to build more stores. 

Here’s the kicker…  We can build 200 stores across the US for less than some Wal-Marts.  Please don’t misunderstand me when I say that for $20Million dollars (less than some Wal-Marts) we can start to put a nail in the coffin of food inaccessibility in America and at the same time strengthen communities rather than obliterate them.  Being small allows us to be more nimble, more accessible, more of a part of the communities we enter in, more open to suggestions from you…by being less we are able to be so much more.

While academics discuss what to do about food deserts, The Boxcar Grocer opened a store and addressed the problem head on.

While the news feeds us stories about people unable to get to proper and healthy food in dense urban environments, The Boxcar Grocer already has a ready-to-go plan to end this challenge immediately.

And even while the great city of Atlanta asks who’s going to help us with getting groceries and local produce to its citizens, The Boxcar Grocer says, “We are here!”.

My sister and I gave up everything for this.  We left our homes.  We lost our relationships.  We spent our own money.  We have given EVERYTHING to The Boxcar Grocer precisely because for years no one has given anything like this to our communities.

To change something that has been neglected for so long takes real commitment, dedication, and resources.

Therefore, our Kickstarter campaign to raise $30,000 by August 11 isn’t about Store #1, but rather it is about the community of America pitching in to say “We want food!”.  Let me not be misunderstood…if we are able to raise this money, or more, we can push the button on The Plan immediately.

No more misunderstandings.  The Boxcar Grocer clearly understands what it is, and that is a thriving store with lots of work to do to get to YOU.  Whether YOU are in Chicago, Brooklyn, Boston, Houston, Beaumont, Washington, DC, or any other metropolis where you cannot get good food.

Let’s work together to finally put an end to food deserts.

We have already taken the first step, let’s take the next step together.  No misunderstandings, just clear purpose.


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  1. 1
    Erin Wilson

    Just had a chance to read this post, and pop over to Kickstarter. So very sorry to see that you didn’t hit your goal. If you decide to try a different campaign, add me to your mailing list. I’d be happy to kick in.

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