LEETONIA-A former employee at the Leetonia IGA is hoping to garner enough community support to jump start a new grocery story in town.
Bradley McHugh, who spent three years, most recently as meat manager, at the store which closed at the beginning of February, has registered a Kickstarter campaign to raise $30,000 to fund his venture, the Cherry Valley Market. He will be hosting a community meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Leetonia library to discuss the project.
"With the loss of the IGA, it affects the whole community," he said. "The grocery store is the economic magnet for a town; people come to buy groceries and shop for other things."
McHugh said he wants to bring back a grocery store tailored to the needs of the community, a "smaller country store with main staple items."
With past experience in the food bank industry, McHugh said he has been planning his project for about five years with the original intent of starting a food bank. But seeing the same people every distribution gave him a yen to help them out of their cycle of dependency, he said.
After consulting with Scott Lewis, director of the Big Reach Center of Hope in Greenford, McHugh said he decided to seek a socially responsible venture, featuring local, healthy and affordable foods."
"With a grocery store, [patrons] are going in of their own free will, whereas they have to have a need to go to a food bank," he explained.
McHugh said he is currently looking at a downtown storefront at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets, as well as a secondary location at the former Tony's Pizzeria on Walnut Street, seeking smaller locations than the former IGA.
"We only need, really, 1/16th of the grocery store that we have today, particularly in small, rural towns with shrinking populations that cannot support grocery stores on the scale of Giant Eagle, Walmart, or any of the other major chain stores," he said. "Customers tend to purchase more affordable products which produce a smaller profit for the grocery store. For a rural grocery store, it is imperative that prices be kept reasonable and that they provide a level of service and expertise that major chain stores do not provide."
At Tuesday's meeting McHugh will introduce the project and outline its SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) then open the floor for adjustments to its business model and what products should be offered.
"We want to be the grocery of choice," McHugh said.
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform used to help fund creative projects. Access to the Kickstarter campaign can be found under the name Cherry Valley Market LLC at www.kickstarter.com/projects/2095290507/feed-the-fires-of-hope-in-a-small-town
Additional information about the venture can be found by visiting the Facebook page at facebook.com/cvmarketleetonia or at cvmarketleetonia.com.