Mission Waco executive director Jimmy Dorrell has a long list of people to thank for making possible the Jubilee Food Market, a full-service grocery store at Colcord Avenue and North 15th Street where the nonprofit group plans to provide an oasis for residents who now must travel more than two miles to the nearest H-E-B.
With that in mind, Dorrell will hold a soft opening for the store Nov. 21, three days before Thanksgiving, and plans a grand opening Dec. 1.
Dorrell pursued grants, received gifts of free or discounted labor and launched a plan allowing the public to pay $25 for a share of symbolic Oasis stock in pursuit of a food option for people stuck with the high prices and limited options at nearby convenience stores. He raised $520,000, which he has poured into renovating the 6,500-square-foot building from the inside out, filling it with fixtures, freezers, and an air-conditioning system. Point-of-sale equipment to scan merchandise will be added soon.
“In an ideal world, we would have opened in October, though we really didn’t believe that could be done, or maybe by the first of November or Nov. 15,” Dorrell said. “But we’ve been fighting the clock, with everything hinging on construction, inspections and delays inevitable with this kind of undertaking.”
But he wanted to crack open the doors by the day before Thanksgiving, and he’s going to make it, he said.
Dorrell said he is amazed at the public’s generous response to this vision for a store right across 15th Street from the Mission Waco complex, where the World Cup Cafe serves meals, the homeless learn job skills and life lessons, youngsters perform in the Jubilee Theater and customers frequent the Fair Trade market.
Everyday folks from around the country and the neighborhood made pledges, as did corporate giants including Wal-Mart, H-E-B and PepsiCo. Meanwhile, many local contractors and tradesmen built up discounted sweat equity in the finished product.
Even the traditional star of Thanksgiving, the turkey, will have something to gobble about where Jubilee Food Market is concerned.
“No, we won’t have any available for sale this year,” general manager Darrell Wickert said. “We would have had to order those in July, and that was not happening.”
Wickert, 64, has spent a career working for Safeway, Minyard Food Stores, Wal-Mart and Dollar General. He and his wife moved to the Waco area 29 years ago, and he was about to retire when he heard about the movement to open a small store in North Waco.
“This basically will be an old-style grocery store, just like an H-E-B, except where they carry five or six brands of something like green beans, we’ll carry one or two,” Wickert said.
He said he will hire seven paid staffers and rely on four or five volunteers to run the store from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
As for sacking groceries, “Some people have donated cloth bags that Jimmy will hand out at the grand opening.”
When those are gone, plastic likely will replace them.
“We will have fresh meat and produce, frozen foods, canned goods, cookies, crackers, Blue Bell ice cream, Coke products and Dr Pepper,” Wickert said. “We also carry non-food items such as paper towels, toilet paper and over-the-counter drugs. That will make up about 10 percent of the store.”
Shoppers will not find magazines, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or a full line of health and beauty aids.
Prices should shadow those at H-E-B on many items, such as milk, eggs and bread, “which probably will be within 10 to 15 cents of what they charge.”
He said being a small store, Jubilee can’t compete with H-E-B and its massive buying power on everything available on the store shelves.
Visitors will find the parking lot lighted and cameras mounted inside and outside the Jubilee Food Market. Within six months to a year, Wickert said, the store will begin issuing Oasis cards providing discounts on purchases made by residents living in ZIP codes nearest the establishment.
Wickert said he will buy steaks, roast and chicken from Waco Custom Meats and has turned to Brenham Wholesale and McLane’s Global for most grocery items.
Dorrell estimated he would spend $75,000 to $100,000 to stock the store initially.
Dorrell said he initially was concerned about financing the market and whether it would impact donations to other Mission Waco causes.
“We have so many programs, and 70 percent of what we spend on them comes from fundraising,” he said. “We don’t want a children’s program to go away because of a grocery store. But we have found a whole new group of folks who have donated. We have been pleasantly surprised by how a wider community has stepped up.”
Residents of the low-income community around the store have embraced the cause and given what they can, he said.
“They bought the Oasis stock, making a statement on how much they wanted this to happen,” Dorrell said. “It came together much faster than we imagined it would.”
Eventually, Mission Waco would like to place an aquaponics greenhouse next to the grocery store for raising produce. The complex would consist of solar panels, a composting system, a rainwater collection and water purification system, areas for food growing and a small training room for school groups.