By Sarah Quezada
Last night was one of those special, “glow-y” community moments. I walked into the new Carver Neighborhood Market and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic team of current and new employees. Then, I took in shelves upon shelves of diverse food options. “Amazing!” was my first thought.
As I chatted with other neighbors, many of us shared a similar sentiment. I mean, we knew it would be a grocery store, but it’s like a GROCERY STORE! We were genuinely delighted by the availability of produce, staples, snacks, and household items. In our community, it was truly a unique sight to behold.
My husband and I relocated to South Atlanta in 2009. It’s a challenge, sometimes, to explain to friends outside our neighborhood how we can live in a major city and still feel relatively cut off from basic businesses and services. But we do.
Still, last night as I looked around the new grocery store so close to my house, I felt almost emotional. It surprised me. After nearly a decade living in urban neighborhoods, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to have beautiful, clean retail space nearby. I’d forgotten that feeling of convenience and community that these valuable “third spaces” provide.
I was also touched to see so many faces I didn’t recognize: people from outside our community who have invested their time, energy, and resources to open this store. There was a season when anything new happening in the neighborhood was dreamed, planned, and executed by the same residents and friends, staying up late at night to make something happen.
While those are fond memories, Carver Neighborhood Market is a powerful witness to how outside partnerships can support and catapult an idea into an innovative, and (hopefully) sustainable project in ways we couldn’t do alone.
Finally, I watched as my two year old dutifully lifted rolls of toilet paper off the shelves and handed them to me. “Good practice,” I told him. “Working here may very well be your first job one day!”
There’s a sense of hope with the opening of the market that just probably isn’t true everywhere a grocery store opens. Hope that young people can find local jobs to learn how to work hard and gain important experience. Hope that new businesses will follow the market’s lead and open in our community. Hope that as more good things happen, more neighbors will move in and the momentum will roll forward.
It was truly a memorable night in South Atlanta. I’m thrilled about the opening of Carver Market and grateful for the work that’s gone on behind-the-scenes at Focused Community Strategies (FCS) to make this dream a reality.
Sarah Quezada is a South Atlanta resident and part of our founding member’s crew at Carver Neighborhood Market.