What It Takes To Fly


What It Takes To Fly
Last Monday, we hosted a party at the store. A lot of people saw it as a closing party, we saw it as a coming of age party. Either way, we continue to reiterate that the store had to close so we could put in place the structures it needs to expand.
In 2009, when Alphonzo and I sat in my 1-bedroom apartment in Oakland –where we were both living at the time –and came up with the name Boxcar Grocer, we had no idea that it would send us hurtling across the country. We took this idea that existed in our heads of a branded corner store that would feature local foods and praise the harvests and legacy of African American farmers, and turned it into a reality. We dreamed Boxcar Grocer would become the Starbucks of corner stores and opened it in a family-owned building in Atlanta.
From the day we opened, this store has moved faster than we could keep up operationally. Y’all stuck with us as we tried indoor farmers markets, Art Stroll parties, and rotated through a number of attempts to provide onsite chefs. I wrote about the challenges and the victories all along the way in my blog. It’s not an easy thing to change one’s self, so attempting to change a system while making sure that there is enough coffee in the pot and bagging groceries was over-zealous on our part.We tried to do too many things too fast. We were organizing in the community, working face to face with urban farmers, providing free business development for any local entrepreneur who came through our doors, and generally, failing to focus on making our own business stronger before offering help to everybody else because we truly think everyone deserves to board the train towards abundance.These next few months while the store is closed, we are focused on building those internal muscles our business needs to be able to spring forward. The time we are giving ourselves is already paying off. We expect to open two more locations before the end of the year.During our incubation period these last two weeks, our store has grown more mature than it did while we were scrambling every day to keep up. (Read my cousin Milan’s lifelong commitment to build strength) It takes letting go of what you were to grow into what you want to become. It can be a scary process, but it is the only way to move forward. We are more clear about our mission and how we are going to reach the next milestones to stay sustainable.

We’ve learned a lot about transitions over the last four years. Since our store has been opened, we have witnessed the transition of more family members than over the entire previous decade combined.

Two days before our party I attended my cousin Debbie Greene’s memorial service in Berkeley. She was the eternal optimist who taught us all the immeasurable power of positivity. She gave the world three beautiful children and a multitude of dreams. Before her there was our Uncle A.J. Price who taught us that it is possible to fly, my Aunt Gwen Price who nurtured us and whose house served as our childhood command center for all things fun, my godfather and Uncle Othello Price who taught us structure and commitment, and another first cousin, Dana Bryant Donatto, who had a light in her so fierce and a love so thick it surprised us all to have it extinguished so young.

All this loss over the four years we spent building a brand that believes in abundance. This store is built upon a legacy that we have collected and created from our beautiful family that continuously contracts and expands but always moves forward.

This journey is about more than this particular store that people came to know and love. Closing the doors is allowing us to open our minds to the full range of possibilities that Boxcar can bring as it transitions into the next iteration; one that is more efficient, more profitable, and capable of moving through even more barriers carrying with it a message of abundance and love for life that comes from respecting the Earth and the unstoppable power of health that comes from genuine nourishment.

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