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Grocery input sought

The community’s vision of having an additional grocery market in Farmville has taken another step to possibly becoming a reality.

Matthew McWilliams

According to a press release from Longwood University, the university’s Office of Community and Economic Development and the Farmville Downtown Partnership (FDP) have been working with a market analysis and strategic planning firm to recruit a boutique grocery to Midtown Square in downtown Farmville in the current location of Longwood’s bookstore, which will soon move to the corner of Third and Main streets.

University officials say at least one company in the boutique grocery business has expressed serious interest in the idea, “and the project is entering an important next phase with a series of town hall-style listening forums to solicit public input.”

“There’s a company that has kind of boutique grocery markets that operates them. And they’re interested,” said Longwood spokesman Matt McWilliams regarding the “serious interest” cited in the press release.

“An initial feasibility study on the grocery store project recently conducted by the FDP pointed to the potential viability of a small, boutique-style market that focused on selling fresh foods,” officials said in the release.

After Kroger — formerly located at the intersection of South Main Street and Griffin Boulevard — closed in 2013, leaving Walmart and Food Lion as the only two large- scale grocery stores in Farmville, many in the community have been clamoring for another option for purchasing groceries.

Kim Royster

“We are working on a compressed time frame to take advantage of some of the great momentum Farmville has right now,” said Pulse Group partner Kim Royster, who is leading market analysis for the project. “We are eager to hear from as many members of the community as possible in the week ahead to shape our evaluation of the viability of a downtown store or market.”

Royster said The Pulse Group is seeking to “help capture a vision that includes products, pricing and format that fits the needs of the community and will be embraced by area shoppers. To do that, we need as many perspectives as possible so our market research can be as accurate as possible.”

“This is just a next step in the exploration in what’s possible,” Royster said in an interview with The Herald. “After we take all the community input, we will then go back out this fall with an online survey … and we’ll have a link to that.”

“One of the things that we’re concerned about is that we don’t over promise at this point, that we make sure that we really are just good listeners and let the community give us their feedback via the online survey,” Royster said.

According to Sheri McGuire, Longwood University’s associate vice president for community and economic development and executive director of Longwood’s Small Business Development Center, working to attract a boutique grocery to the site has emerged as a top priority.

“We’re still at an initial stage, and those with a potential interest understandably have some homework to do,” McGuire said in the release. “But we’re excited that the interest is real, and hopefully in the years to come, this location will be part of a broad array of grocery and food options sprouting up around Farmville as befitting a thriving college-town community.”

Sheri McGuire

According to McGuire, about two years ago, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) awarded FDP a grant to study the feasibility of locating specific businesses downtown.

“Recognizing the need for food options given the location of more housing downtown, FDP used some of the remaining funds to study the feasibility of locating a grocery store in or near downtown,” McGuire said during a previous interview.

According to the release, The Pulse Group will facilitate four town hall-style forums and meet with varied community groups and organizations next week to gather input. Meetings are open, with no signups required.

The forums will be held Wednesday from 4-5:30 p.m. and 6-7:30 p.m. at the Farmville Train Station, located at 510 W. Third St., and Thursday from 4-5:30 p.m. and 6-7:30 p.m. at the South Street Conference Center, located at 124 N. South St.

According to the release, The Pulse Group has established a website to share ideas and vision for the market at www.farmvillemarket.proboards.com.

“The Pulse Group is interested in scheduling meetings with community organizations between Monday, Aug. 7 and Friday, Aug. 11. Please contact Kim Royster at kroyster@thepulsegroup.org to schedule a meeting with your group.”

“Once the input gathered at next week’s listening sessions has been analyzed, consultants will launch an online survey this fall to test various concepts, products, pricing, service formats and designs to provide the project with more specific information. …” officials said.