October 24, 2021

Advocate: New store not Groton’s food solution

Kevin L. Smith/staff reporter

Eric Frank, of Advanced Demolition Services in Buffalo, removes ceiling tiles this week in a vacant property at 178 Main St., Groton, which used to be a 7-Eleven. Owner Benderson Development is preparing to open a Dollar General at the site.

GROTON— A Dollar General store coming to Groton will help provide a few last-minute items for a quick supper, but it lacks the fresh food that Groton shoppers need, a food pantry organizer and food advocate said.

Work is under way at 178 Main St., the site of a 7-eleven that closed in May 2018. An application to place Dollar General signs on the property, which is owned by Benderon Development of Buffalo, was recently filed with the village, said village board member Terrance Walpole.

Having a Dollar General won’t suffice, said Jessamine Stone, food pantry organizer at the Assembly of God in Groton.

“I think it’s great when you have options for a can of soup, but people need to have fresh meats and produce available,” she said.

However, Walpole said anything bigger than a Dollar General would see a “very slim chance as potentially profitable,” and the store would be better than an empty building.

“We’d prefer a bigger option for a grocery store, and one with a pharmacy, but with the size Groton is, the odds of getting anything bigger are low,” he said.

On the other side, Walpole said, Family Dollar and now Dollar General can be useful for last-minute items.

“The Family Dollar store has a steady flow of customers every day,” he said. “I can see Dollar General being the same way.”

The village sought potential buyers for the property, Walpole said, but Benderson Development was “adamant on not selling the property.”

The property is assessed at $350,000, and Benderson Development charges $10,000 a month for rent.

Benderson Development could not be reached for comment.

With the nearest full-service groceries in Dryden and Cortlandville, village residents turn to the food pantry and a weekly food giveaway every Tuesday at the Groton Public Library.

“The need for it is very high,” said library Director Sara Knobel. “The need for the amount of food wouldn’t even fit in the library.”

Every week, the giveaway has 40 to 60 cars — up to 200 people – and goes through 50 to 60 bags of food, Knobel said.

“Having food at some kind of store is always good,” she said. “Is it ideal? Probably not, but at least there’s another store in town.”

The pantry at Assembly of God helps up to 1,400 people a month, Stone said and goes through 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of food a day. Its pantry is open 5:30 to 7 p.m. Mondays

“Since the COVID-19, especially, we’ve seen the demand four to five times more than what we were used to seeing,” Stone said.

Some village residents don’t have reliable transportation, she said, so even simply going to the food pantry can be impossible at times, let alone a grocery out of town.

“There are a lot of houses where we’ve had to deliver food,” Stone said. “There is a pretty good need for fresh meat and produce, and a large group of families request it because they don’t have the necessary transportation.”

The need for the pantry is always going to exist, Stone said, but having a full grocery store would help ease the pantry’s burden.

“Everything in Family Dollar and Dollar General is either frozen, canned or boxed; that’s not enough,” she said. “You just can’t walk or drive to a store in town to get fruits and vegetables or buy meat to make hamburgers. It’s a necessity.”