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Reid's rebounds after thousands of dollars of charitable donations pour in

Things are looking up for a locally owned and operated Charlottesville grocery store after months of dwindling profits, foot traffic and inventory.

Reid’s Super Save Market has turned a corner, and it has the charity-minded residents of Charlottesville to thank.

The store has collected $21,370 in donations to help keep afloat.

“To be clear, we are not completely back,” Reid’s co-owner Sue Clements told The Daily Progress. “But we are starting to fill the store back up.”

Reid’s got its start in 1961, when Malcolm Reid purchased the downtown building that was then Stop ‘n’ Shop. He changed the store’s name, and Reid’s was a mainstay in downtown Charlottesville until 1982. That year, a fire downtown destroyed several buildings, including Reid’s, and Reid sold the store to his longtime store manager Kenny Brooks.

The store moved to its present location on Preston Avenue, and Brooks brought in his daughters Clements and Kim Miller to help run the business. Clements and Miller took over Reid’s after their father’s death in 2016.

For the past six months, Reid’s has struggled.

Beginning in October, Reid’s struggled to keep its dried goods and dairy sections stocked as its owners spent what money they had to find the fresh meat and produce they say has been their “calling card” for decades. In mid-October, a sign went up on the front door clarifying that, despite the lack of actual groceries, the grocery store was not going out of business.

Clements told The Daily Progress in January that several factors caused the store to fall on hard times: supply chains snarled during the pandemic have kept prices high, the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood have changed in recent years and several of the store’s longtime customers have grown old or died — and there were some managerial mistakes along the way.

“There’s probably some things we could’ve done sooner,” Clements said in January. “We got ourselves into a hole that now we’re trying to dig out of.”

But service to the community has always been part of Reid’s offerings, and that service appears to have paid off — literally.

After hearing of the store’s financial struggles, Megan Salgado, a lifelong customer and Charlottesville native, created a GoFundMe page in January titled “Keep Reid’s Super-Save Market in the Community.”

By the time the campaign closed on March 6, it had amassed more than $20,000. Those contributions came not only from individuals but also other local businesses, including its neighbors on Preston Avenue, The Market and Bodo’s Bagels, which both donated $1,000. Local coffee shop Shenandoah Joe, also a Preston establishment, pitched in with eight other private individuals to gift the store donations of $500.

Raising money to keep a private business afloat did raise some eyebrows. Users on Reddit and X, formerly Twitter, expressed shock when the GoFundMe was shared: “Raising $10,000 as a gift to a company is wild,” “Having a charity for a business is insane.” One user said the notion of a charity for a for-profit enterprise put a “bad taste” in their mouth, and another said that Reid’s would be better off raising its prices and playing by the rules of “simple economics.”

It may be wild, but it worked.

The donations have allowed the store to invest in “value-priced” items from a distributor so “we could just get something on the shelves to sell,” said Clements. It’s not the same as the previous quality of goods, but Clements said customers are happy to see fully stocked aisles again.

The financial support has lifted sales, but it’s the community support that has lifted spirits, Clements said. It’s been the hugs, positive feedback and words of encouragement from customers that have kept the owners motivated.

“We would have broken by now without the support we’ve felt from the community,” said Clements. “It wouldn’t have been the dollars. We just would have given up. We were getting tired of struggling.”

The GoFundMe campaign is not a long-term solution, however, and Clements said she knows that. Reid’s plans to close on a loan by the end of the month which will help reset the business and refresh its shelves with its previous quality of goods.

The owners say they are taking the lessons they’ve learned over the past six months with them as they embark on a new chapter, and start to look more critically about how they spend their money.

“We’re revisiting everything we pay for,” said Clements. “I think we got into a routine and just said, ‘That’s what the bill always is,’ but now we’re going to revisit all of our services to see if that’s what we need to be paying.”

“People always assume that since you own a business, you must be rich,” said Clements with a chuckle. “But as my dad always used to say, ‘The grocery business is a penny business.’ You’re just making pennies sometimes.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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