Grocery store coming to Surry

Published 4:49 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

An independent grocery store plans to open in Surry County this fall.

Surry residents Andrew and Sheryl White purchased the former Surry Furniture & Hardware Co. store about two years ago. Now, the renovations are nearly complete — with the help of a Virginia state grant aimed at combating “food deserts.”

The county has held “food desert” status for more than two decades, according to County Administrator Melissa Rollins. The term, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, refers to low-income rural communities where at least 33% of the population lives 10 miles or more from a supermarket or large grocery store.

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced $620,000 in Virginia Food Access Investment Fund grants to 15 projects on July 28, including a $50,000 award to Surry Marketplace LLC.

“Hunger and food insecurity are a reality for too many Virginia families, and the pandemic has only underscored the urgency of this crisis,” Northam said in his July 28 press release. “At its core, the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund is about addressing the root causes of low food access and increasing equity and justice in our local food systems. I am pleased to see the innovation and dedication of businesses and organizations who are helping to advance our shared goals of building strong, resilient food supply chains in historically marginalized communities and making fresh, nutritious food available to Virginians in every corner of our Commonwealth.”

The fund was established in 2020 via House Bill 1509, sponsored by Del. Delores McQuinn, and Senate Bill 1073, sponsored by state Senator Jennifer McClellan.

“I have spent many years advocating for equity in providing healthy and affordable food options to all citizens of the Commonwealth,” McQuinn said, also via the July 28 press release. “This investment program is a great start to address the ongoing challenge of food insecurities that have been so prevalent in this period of social and economic deficit. I am grateful to the Governor for his leadership and commitment to addressing food inequities across Virginia.”

“We are very excited Governor Northam supported the grocery store project here in Surry,” said Surry County Economic Development Director Yoti Jabri.

According to The Smithfield Times archives, access to fresh, perishable foods has been an ongoing issue for county residents since Surry’s only major grocery store shuttered in 1999, leaving them with at least a 30-minute drive to alternatives in Smithfield, Suffolk or Petersburg.

“The aim is to eliminate the lack of fresh food access here in Surry,” Jabri said. “Surry Marketplace, LLC now has the support from the state, county and the Obici Healthcare Foundation to complete this very important project for our community.”

The former hardware store now home to Surry Marketplace is located at the corner of Routes 10 and 31 at the county’s only traffic light. According to Sheryl, in addition to in-store shopping, it will offer an online shopping platform where customers can order produce and other products for home delivery or in-store pickup.

“We’ve done phase one of the renovations,” Andrew said. “The next step is electrical and bringing in refrigeration.”

Once the renovations are complete, the Whites hope to begin hiring locally.

“We are thrilled to offer employment opportunities and various levels of training to local residents with the assistance of local workforce development,” Sheryl said. “It is our goal to employ local high-school students and local residents, especially those currently unemployed, with the hopes they will seek employment at the Surry Marketplace and other local community businesses.”

The couple is planning a tentative late September opening.