By Terry Harris
Surry County Deputy Administrator David Harrison recently made an announcement that has locals buzzing with excitement.
“Recognizing the urgent need for a permanent local grocery store due to the citizens’ declining health for lack of same,” said Harrison, “The OBICI Foundation, under its Healthy Behaviors Funding Initiative, has recently given a $300,000 matching grant to Surry County for the establishment of a permanent local market.”
Elaborating on the project on which he, in his prior position as Director of Economic Development has been working for some time along with County Administrator Melissa Rollins, he also announced that the Surry County BOS unanimously agreed to provide the matching funds.
“Realizing that the lack of continual access to healthy food will adversely impact the overall health and well-being of our community,” Harrison said, “this grant funding is a welcomed incentive for the establishment of a local market for our citizens. This endeavor will blend the efforts of local farmers, county departments, citizens, and local business owner, Mr. Andrew White, Surry Market Place, LLC, owner/operator in a unified effort to improve the health status of Surry County. This could not have come at a more critical time in our community as the COVID-19 Pandemic presents extraordinary challenge for citizens.”
“The Board’s newly adopted comprehensive plan cites the need of a grocery store to boost the economic vitality for the community,” added Rollins, “and the application for the funding is in direct alignment with the County’s health and wellness initiatives and mission to improve the quality of life for all. A grocery store will change community norms and environments because regular access to grocery has not been in existence in Surry County for many years.”
“The time in which we are no longer identified as a food desert County is now closer to becoming a reality,” continued Rollins, “thanks to the partnership of the OBICI Healthcare Foundation, the industrious efforts of County staff, the collaboration with the Town of Surry officials, citizens who recognize the need to have access to fresh food, and the support of the Board of Supervisors in accepting this grant award and supporting prior efforts for food access to the County.”
Harrison also cited this project as ending the need for a long commute which has been required for local citizens to purchase fresh produce, meat, and basic necessities and the fact that now they will be able to stay in the County – and keep their tax dollars in Surry County – as big wins for the county.
The proposal presented to the Board of Supervisors with the request for the matching funds emphasized that “The COVID-19 Pandemic has made a local market even more of a need because Surry citizens are having to travel to larger communities for grocery needs and have been exposing themselves to places and spaces that contain higher COVID-19 cases. As a result, our community’s COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising. The local market will increase access to healthy foods by providing a physical structure with the option of delivery services in the center of the Town of Surry, at an intersection with the highest traffic count in the entire county, where food can be regularly purchased.”
Harrison said that in addition to the local monies that will be expected to remain in Surry County with the advent of the new grocery store, specialized desirable grocery services such as fresh cut meats by an on-site butcher will attract citizens and tourists from neighboring communities and thereby also increase revenue generated in Surry County.
“Grocery retail is labeled in the retail industry as ‘Anchor’ or primary development,” Harrison explained. “Anchor Development supports the existence of accessory development such as pharmacy, laundry, dry cleaning and smaller retail development that Surry County also desperately needs. Inserting grocery in the center of the Town of Surry could drastically transform the small rural town into a quaint, walkable moderately populated community with quality-of-life conveniences.”
The 7,500 square foot Surry Local Market is undergoing major reconstruction and projected to open some time in 2021. They will offer a blended selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables, meat freshly cut on site, dairy, deli options as well as frozen food and grocery sections and will offer call-in ordering for specialty cuts of meats as well as delivery services linked to online orders through a local market website.
“We are extremely appreciative of this generous $300,000 Healthy Behaviors Grant award from the OBICI Healthcare Foundation for the establishment of a local market in Surry County,” said Rollins, “and for the support of the Board of Supervisors and other community partners who are making this long-time dream and goal a reality.”