Local News

Lone grocery store in east Durham neighborhood to close

Posted April 13, 2012 4:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2012 6:51 a.m. EDT

— A nonprofit group plans to close a grocery store it operates in east Durham because of mounting losses and few customers, officials said Wednesday.

TROSA, which helps people with substance abuse problems, opened the store on Angier Avenue two years ago to give its clients a place to work and provide fresh produce and other healthy foods to residents in surrounding neighborhoods.

"They kept fruit, which is a rare thing in east Durham, and they had the greens," said Samuel Jenkins, who has a barber shop nearby. "I've had people to come up to ask me, 'Sam, you've got to do something. TROSA is leaving.' I can't do anything."

Donors help subsidize the cost of the food to keep prices low, and TROSA got a deal on its rent from Joseph Bushfan, who owns Joe's Diner nearby and is working to redevelop the area.

Still, TROSA has lost more than $100,000 on the store.

"Unfortunately, month after month, we kept on seeing losses," said Jeff Stern, the nonprofit's director of special projects.

The store will hold a clearance sale in its parking lot on May 12 and close by the end of May.

Even with the losses, Stern said the decision to close was difficult for TROSA because of the people who shop at the store. Seventy percent of them walk to the store, he said.

"While we didn’t have enough customers and from a dollars-and-cents decision, it might have seemed easy, you know, we saw that we were making a difference in the neighborhood," Stern said. "The face of that corner has changed so much in the last couple of years.”

The next nearest grocery store is about 3 miles away, and Jenkins said it can take as long as 90 minutes to get there by bus. That forces many residents to shop at area convenience stores, which often carry less healthy foods, he said.

"I would like to see a grocery store come back because, hey, what am I going to do?" he said.

Bushfan said he is working on getting another store at the site or possibly a place for food trucks.

"I don't want (residents) to lose their hope, you know, saying that, 'Well, I told you so,' because they've been so let down so many times," he said. "It's really a lot of good people here in northeast Durham, and we need to bring them out and bring out the potential."