- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP) - A group working to bring a cooperatively owned supermarket to Itta Bena is considering starting the enterprise in a business incubator space.

The Greenwood Commonwealth (https://bit.ly/1Wotyma) reports the group toured the Leflore County Business and Manufacturing Development Center Thursday, as it plans to apply for an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Mississippi Delta Business Alliance and Mississippi Valley State University Foundation are exploring the possibility of converting one of the large storage bays on the side of the structure into a temporary supermarket.

Alliance President Bertron Cowan says he hopes a market could make enough money to move into a former Big Star supermarket in downtown Itta Bena later to help revitalize the area. Cowan said the cooperative would consider other sites in downtown Itta Bena, and could open there without starting a temporary site.

Cowan seeks members for the Itta Bena Healthy Foods Cooperative and says the group needs to raise $1.5 million to start the store. The federal grant, which requires a certain amount of shelf space be used to sell fresh produce, would get the group more than halfway to that target.

“We’re going to ask for private investors and local people to step up and help fund the project,” Cowan said.

The Leflore County Board of Supervisors has agreed to write a letter of a support but hasn’t made any commitment to aid the store financially or in kind.

Duke McCoy, a store site development specialist based in Little Rock, Arkansas, told the group on Thursday about plans from a similar, though slightly larger, project under way in Utica.

Cowan asked whether some features of the Utica store, such as a deli, might be superfluous. McCoy said that forgoing a deli would save a significant amount of money because several expensive pieces of equipment wouldn’t be needed.

By installing a drop ceiling in the incubator bay, McCoy said, the cooperative could save money on air conditioning. Additionally, a partition would be needed to separate sales and storage areas, and the gravel parking lot would need to be paved for shopping carts, McCoy said.

McCoy estimated that the store would be able to open 90 days after ordering equipment from suppliers.


Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, https://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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