By Anita Keith-Foust
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
The story of the ugly duckling can be compared to the old Winn Dixie site at 812 Liberty Street in Northeast Central Durham when Save-A-Lot opened its doors with a grand opening on Thursday, September 27, 2012.
The government officials were there for the celebration but the real celebration is about how the rebirth of this shopping location shows how a community can hold onto its property and employ residents who have lived in the area before the improvements were much more than a dream.
Donald Hughes, a former resident and current Workforce Development board member, launched his campaign for city council from the building years ago when it was an eyesore. He based his campaign on improving places in Durham such as NECD.
“I’m excited that we have the grocery store in Northeast Central Durham. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Hughes, proudly. “For over twenty years that building was vacant and there wasn’t even a full-fledged grocery store in walking distance. Northeast Central Durham deserves the amenities that any other community in Durham has. So, it is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Store manager, Ken Privette, was beaming about the store’s opening. The revitalization efforts with Save-A-Lot began around January. They started construction on the building in April.
Public officials were available at the opening ceremony. Mayor William “Bill” Bell said, “I think that it is a great public private investment in an area that sorely needs an additional source of quality products from a quality store. Save-A-Lot is a massive corporation. They bring good products at good prices and it’s at a good location and I hope it serves the community well.”
Save-A-Lot has over 1300 stores nationwide. The company’s website states, “We help our customers to live richer, fuller lives by saving them money and time. The time-saving set-up of Save-A-Lot stores, combined with high-quality discount groceries, allows us to offer great food at great prices from great people, every day.” Durham shoppers will have their first opportunity to try Save-A-Lot thanks to the new partnership.
Privette explained that he worked with the owners of the building after the last grocery store had closed twenty-five years ago.
“We got involved in January. It all came to fruition this year,” said Privette. “We worked with the church. They still own the building.”
Rosa Byrd who has lived in the neighborhood for seven years said that she was glad that the church still owns the property. She also was concerned about where she would shop once Lowe’s at Wellons Village closed. Now she can shop at Save-A-Lot.
Ecclesia House of Prayer has owned the property for most of the twenty-five years that the building has been closed. Members of the community, such as Hughes, commented positively on Ecclesia House’s ability to keep the property ownership.
Typically, community members and businesses are displaced in the name of community revitalization giving it a negative disposition amid cries of gentrification. The neighborhood had the opposite reaction, they benefitted from this revitalization.
Privette, said, “Right now, we have 21 employees. We have one employee who is not from Durham. The rest are from Durham. The majority are from the neighborhood or ten minutes up the road.” He has been a Durham resident for the past fifteen years.
Citizens, such as Fannie Castello, don’t live in the neighborhood but came to the store out of curiosity. Castello said that she was satisfied with the products and the prices. She said, “Tell them don’t change them. When I come back next week I want them to be the same price.”
“We have incredible prices and you can save 40 percent off of your grocery bill here at Save-A-Lot,” said Privette. “We are glad to be in the neighborhood. We are glad to be here and the neighborhood needed something like this. We are glad that they chose us to be with them.”
This partnership between Ecclesia House of Prayer, Save-A-Lot, and the City of Durham is a model that many hope will be repeated throughout the city.