New grocery store to open in food desert

Nathan Baker • May 3, 2019 at 8:30 PM

A new grocer in central Johnson City believes it has the recipe for success in a spot where others have failed.

Large, hand-written signs posted Friday in the window of 1103 N. Roan St. announced the coming of United Grocery Outlet, a closeout food store with 37 locations in the Southeast.

Kim Gossett, store support manager for the chain’s parent company, Athens, Tennessee-based Bargain Barn, said the store should open by the middle of June.

“We’ve been looking at Johnson City for a while,” Gossett said. “We have stores in other locations similar to that one and they do very well.”

He said the location in the Central Shopping Center was appealing to the company because of its heavy pedestrian traffic from nearby neighborhoods and the bus stop next to its parking lot.

When open, the store will sit on the edge of neighborhoods deemed a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To make the designation, the agency maps census tracts with a significant number of low-income households more than one mile from the nearest supermarket, especially those that sell fresh fruit, vegetables and meat.

With a produce department and a meat cutter, Gossett said he hopes United Grocery Outlet will fill those residents’ needs.

The new store won’t be the first grocer in that 15,000-square-foot space. It’s not even the second.

Hometown IGA closed its store there in 2014 after the parent company merged with another. A Save-A-Lot food store then opened at the spot in 2016, but it abruptly closed last August.

Gossett said United Grocery Outlet buys its products from wholesalers looking to balance their inventories, getting rid of extra stock, changing packaging and selling factory seconds and trial run products. By buying its stock at lower cost, the stores have lower overhead costs.

With lower costs, he believes the store will have more longevity than the others before it.

The store will employ about 25, and Gossett said the company is hiring cashiers, stockers, meat cutters, produce clerks and management.

For more information about employment opportunities or the company, visit www.myugo.com.

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