ROCKINGHAM — Last month, the Food King grocery on the corner of East Washington and North Randolph streets closed its doors after 45 years. Now, residents wonder what will become of the vacant building and paved space.
Local Realtor Jamie Moss, who has the property listed, took to Facebook last week asking friends what they’d like to see done with the place.
“The former Food King building has many possibilities and is right in the center of town,” Moss wrote in a Facebook post dated Jan. 24. “What would you like to see there? Corner grocery, brewery, café, or all three? Maybe a co-op where you can become a business owner?”
Susan Kelly of the Rockingham Downtown Corporation said several people initially suggested “the usual suspects.”
“An ice-skating rink, a movie theater,” Kelly said. “We’ve been talking on Facebook since Jamie started the conversation. I talked to Jamie about a cooperative grocery. The building is large enough to hold several businesses. We’d like to keep it a grocery, because the location has become one relied on by those who are food insecure — people who live near by but have no transportation.”
Moss posted in support of keeping the property a grocery store of some type, but spoke with the Daily Journal late Tuesday of bigger ideas. She believes that community investment — where owners buy into a grocery, café and brewery for as little as $100 a share — could create a valuable and successful downtown co-op unlike anything Richmond County has yet to see within its borders.
“I know it doesn’t look like it’s in any decent shape from the outside, but when you go in, you realize the building isn’t what is bad — it’s what the Food King did with it that made it look bad,” she said. “The concept behind it is, if people buy stock and invest in it as a co-op, they’re giving back to the community by contributing that investment.
“People who have an investment in it will be patronizing it,” Moss continued. “There could be the grocery store, and in another part of the building a little cafe where you could sit down to eat. And a brewery. You could have special days for people who are investors, like a free-beer Thursday or a day they can shop and get a little discount. There are so many people who go out of town to buy the really fresh, organic produce and stop and grab the nice, fresh beer of the day.”
Moss also said the proximity of the location to one of the county’s populous neighborhoods would make it a hit.
“There are so many homes,” she said. “Richmond Park alone has over 300 houses. And people in that neighborhood, that’s where they shopped, Food King. When I visualize it, I see Fresh Market with a brewery and a little cafe. It could be so much better.”
“We have fine grocery stores here, but I think there’s a niche downtown there for opening something different,” Kelly said. “That’s another thing that people have talked about that we could support here, because we do not have a brewery. I believe downtown could support something like that.”
For more information about cooperative grocery stores, visit www.cfra.org/renewrural/grocery.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.