For Florida A&M University students and Southside residents, food markets are scarce. The nearest Winn-Dixie was torn down and reconstructed into a gym, and the few other grocery stores may not always sell high-quality products.
The opening of the new local food market on Kissimmee Street, Bryant’s Neighborhood Marketplace, brings another much-needed resource for food and household items. Owner of Bryant’s Neighborhood Marketplace Carter Wiggins expressed he wanted to provide quality products for his hometown.
“I had a responsibility to come back to my home and touch my community and neighborhood,” Wiggins said. “This is for those on the south side, something that you all can be proud about.”
As a Tallahassee native, Wiggins grew up in the area and understands the need for a business like that of Bryant’s Neighborhood Marketplace in the community.
During the two-day grand opening celebration of the store on Friday Feb. 15, members of the community were welcomed to come out and enjoy free food, music, and fun games. Raffle tickets and prizes were even given out to those in the crowd.
Emotions were high as Wiggins cut the ribbon to signal the store’s grand opening. With tears in his eyes, Wiggins presented plaques of gratitude to those who have stood by his side as he worked hard to make his dream a reality.
Wiggins’ mother, Elizabeth B. James was happy to see her son’s dream finally come true.
“He always wanted a store like Mama,” James said.
While the Southside of Tallahassee has a number of grocery stores, at times these places can lack healthy and affordable produce. Residents sometimes have to drive across town to the nearest Publix or Walmart.
Senior healthcare management major Keturah Wilson is used to making these trips in order to grocery shop. She recalled the moment she decided to shop for quality rather than convenience.
“I bought a can of evaporated milk from Piggly Wiggly once,” Wilson said. “When I opened it at home, it was spoiled.”
However, with the opening of Bryant’s Marketplace, she can now save a little on gas and shop within her vicinity.
The marketplace does its best to accommodate all members of the community. It accepts EBT and even offers a ten percent discount to student purchases as long as the student presents a valid school ID.
Students are also encouraged to come and hang out in between classes. Bryant’s Marketplace offers a very serene picnic area where students can relax and access the store’s free Wi-Fi as they munch on a few snacks. The store also makes it an effort to employ students.
Store Operations Manager Michele Dorsey explained the efforts the business makes to make customers feel comfortable.
“We’re trying to create an environment where if they want to come and hang out and do homework they can,” Dorsey said. “We bring access to products that they normally would have to walk a distance to get.”
Ubers aren’t cheap and catching the bus can be very inconvenient for busy students. With Bryant’s Marketplace being walking distance from the university, the store serves as a fast and convenient food spot for students living on campus.
Sophomore psychology major Alaysha Bell recalled the hassle it would take to make a trip to grocery stores in town.
“Before I got my car, trying to buy snacks and small groceries for my dorm was a mission,” Bell said. “I would have to either catch an Uber or the bus, or call my older cousins for a ride.”
Bryant’s Marketplace holds a significant historic value in the community. During the era of segregation, Mathew Bryant Sr. and Rebecca Hadley Bryant owned and operated “Bryant’s Grocery Store,” which met the dietary needs of the black community in the area. That is what inspired the name, “Bryant’s Neighborhood Marketplace.”
It had always been Wiggins’ dream to be able to give back to the community in the way those before him had also done. Wiggins believes it is the duty of those in the community to give back and help create an “economic paradigm” in the community and act as positive role models for the growing youth.