Photo Gallery: Navy veteran opens grocery store to provide fresh food to low-income residents
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”102″ gal_title=”Save-A-Lot opens on Harden Street”]
Marcus Scarborough could have taken his skills as a nuclear-trained engineer to secure any position he wanted. But the Columbia native and 13-year Navy veteran chose to return home to fulfill the simple need of food security to an underserved part of the population.
Scarborough welcomed customers Wednesday to the new Save-A-Lot on Harden Street. His goal for the store is to be a place for low-income residents to access fresh produce.
“We want to make sure that people who, for whatever reason, do not have all the means that some of us have that they have a place to go and they can get the same benefits that everyone else can get,” said Columbia Housing Authority Executive Director Gilbert Walker.
The grocery store, which is across from the future Columbia Commons development, is in the Celia Saxon neighborhood where many of the residents said they struggled to walk or find transportation to get to the Food Lion farther down Harden Street in Five Points.
“I can’t imagine me having to walks almost a mile every day just to go the grocery store to pick up a few things,” said Scarborough, who is owner and operator of the grocery store. “It’s an everyday need, that is very basic to a community, to life, to living — and it’s so important to health. It affects every fiber of your day and how you put food on your table.”
Scarborough, along with several other Navy veterans, joined Honor Capital LLC to empower veterans to be business leaders in the community. The company is developing 20 Save-A-Lot food stores across the nation, opening the first in Columbia.
Scarborough left Columbia 13 years ago to attend the United States Naval Academy where he earned a bachelor’s degree in science in economics. He served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy inspired to serve his country following the Sept. 11 attacks. He is a Richland Northeast High School graduate and is Honor Capital’s vice-president for South Carolina.
“I think as veterans we do have a servant mentality where we know everyday that what keeps you through a lot of deployments and a lot of tough nights its that you’re doing it for your family back home, you’re doing it for your community back home you’re doing it to defend the freedom to maintain our way of life,” Scarborough said.
Construction of the 20,000-square-foot Save-A-Lot store was completed by the Columbia Housing Authority as part of a $50 million community HOPE VI revitalization program funded in part by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The South Carolina Community Loan Fund also financed a part of the project.
“Now it’s one thing to have fresh fruits and vegetables but you can’t afford it, it’s another thing to be able to afford it and then not have it,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn. “To bring these two things together in this community I think it is very,very important and it makes a statement.”
The new grocery store helps residents with the challenge of transportation that many low-income individuals face when trying to access health options for meals.
“Some people have problems with rides,” said resident Sheila Wolfe. “[Save-A-Lot] is in walking distance and that will help a lot of people to save money where they’re having a hard time.”
Scarborough’s efforts also were praised by customers who felt the neighborhood desperately needed the store.
“I thought that was wonderful he’s giving back to the community and I think that’s important for anyone, everyone to do,” said Columbia Housing Authority employee Pam Starling.
Scarborough said Honor Capital soon would be expanding into Florida with more grocery stores. The Harden Street location will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Scarborough said he hopes that his business can also play an integral role in the Bull Street development.
“With the Columbia Commons project coming here soon and with this Save-A-Lot here in this community that we’re opening, I just know its going to be the cornerstone of the change and the catalyst for that change for the future,” he said.