It's only been a few weeks since Sprout Fresh Food Store opened in Pontiac--Jan. 26, to be exact--and co-owners Bethany Blackburn and Coleman Yoakum are quickly learning about their neighbors and customers.
They're starting to learn about people's families, about their lives. They're learning about people's buying habits, too; Sprout can't keep enough grapes and bananas in stock, they're flying off the shelves so quickly. But that's part of Sprout's mission, says Blackburn. Not only did they want to provide fresh vegetables and fruit to a neighborhood slim on such options, but they wanted to become a part of that neighborhood, too.
"Everything's been really well received," says Blackburn. "It's not that we didn't think we wouldn't be, but people are visibly excited when they come in."
The nearest grocery store is two miles away, which is a problem for neighbors with limited transportation options, she says. And the nearby party stores and gas stations don't exactly carry a wide range of fresh produce, either.
Sprout makes an effort to keep prices low and affordable for its neighbors. The co-owners volunteer at community gardens and farms in places like White Lake, Oakland Township, and Romulus in exchange for free and low-cost produce. They also have their own two-acre garden in the neighborhood.
Blackburn says they just found out they've been approved to accept Bridge Cards and SNAP benefits.
Yoakum first moved to Pontiac for an internship, eventually deciding to stay and start Micah 6, a community development non-profit. He reconnected with his old friend Blackburn, who moved to the neighborhood from Arkansas to help run the produce shop. Sprout, she says, is just one avenue of community outreach that Micah 6 has planned.
"This next year is all about building relationships with our neighbors and opening our arms to the rest of Pontiac," says Blackburn.
Sprout is hoping to throw a grand opening party in the next several weeks, and more information on that can be found on their Facebook page
as plans develop.
Sprout Fresh Food Store is located at 580 W. Huron St. in Pontiac. They are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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