Causeway, The Enterprise Center, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga, and PK Management are partnering to open a small market on the ground floor of Patten Towers. The goal of the store is to provide healthy, affordable, and accessible food to the residents of Patten Towers, as well as those who live or work in the Innovation District.
The organizers have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 through generosity.com.
However, money given to the campaign is not a typical donation. People who give money to the campaign will receive a gift card that can be used at the store for the amount given (up to $100) along with some branded “perks” such as stickers, reusable grocery bags, and a punch card for free coffee. The organizers are using the campaign as a way to spread the word, and build a strong group of loyal customers leading up to the store’s opening, officials said.
The store, called Bingo’s Market, will open in October. The market will sell fresh produce, grocery staples, household items, $1 coffee from Mad Priest Coffee Roasters, and grab-and-go breakfast and lunch options, all at the most affordable prices possible.
In 2015, a section of downtown Chattanooga was declared the Innovation District, with The Edney Building chosen as the anchor of the district. Right across the street from the Edney Building sits Patten Towers, an independently owned, government subsidized apartment building. In order to live in Patten Towers, residents must be 62 years old and older, or have a disability, either mental or physical, and be below a certain income level. In a survey done in 2015, many residents reported an income of less than $500 a month.
Abby Garrison, Causeway’s executive director, said, “Innovation is all about solving problems. There was an obvious opportunity in front of us to harness the emerging spirit of innovation, and use it to address a big problem facing some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
In the summer of 2015, Causeway and The Company Lab received a grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation to support their work connecting Patten Towers and the Innovation District. Through the summer and fall, employees of those organizations and The Enterprise Center started building relationships with the residents of Patten Towers. They played Bingo with the residents every other week, hosted a weekly business class, sponsored a health fair with over 50 vendors, and facilitated several focus groups to better understand the residents’ needs.
In one survey, 51 percent of the residents said that access to food was the biggest issue they were facing. For the last six years, the owners of Patten Tower and the YMCA’s Mobile Market have been addressing this issue. However, the Mobile Market was only able to be on-site at Patten Towers once a week for a few hours.
Bill Rush, director of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga, said the YMCA has been piloting healthy corner stores in three other low income neighborhoods to provide more consistent access to healthy food. Bingo’s Market will follow a similar model, but with more extensive healthy and affordable options.
The store will be on the ground floor of Patten Towers in a room that has an external entrance facing Georgia Avenue, across from the Pickle Barrel. The building’s management company, PK Management, is allowing the group to use the space rent-free.
Joyce Walker, VP of Community Development for PK Management, said, “We are thrilled to be entering into a partnership that is addressing the needs of our residents, ensuring that they are treated as valued members of the Chattanooga community. We are committed to helping this store and our residents thrive.”
The store will be open for a six-month pilot period. In that time, the organizers are hoping to make it financially sustainable so that it can be passed off to a local entrepreneur to run as a viable business.
People can give to the crowdfunding campaign through this link. Ms. Garrison said, “We really hope that people who work in the Innovation District will see this as an opportunity to play an active and positive role in this neighborhood, whether they work at a startup in The Edney Building, or at larger companies like TVA, EPB or Unum. This is a way for us all to invest in the place that we live.”