Southeast Raleigh grocery store bought by NC Budget Director Art Pope

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Raleigh store bought by Budget Director Art Pope
A new supermarket is planned in an area in desperate need of one, but some community leaders think the store could be a double-edged sword.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A new grocery store is now scheduled to open in southeast Raleigh, but that announcement is already meeting mixed reviews.

In Jan. 2013, the Kroger store on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard closed, leaving a void in the area. But this week it was announced that the building had been bought, and that space will soon house a Roses store and a separate grocery store. However, the man behind the company that bought the property is state Budget Director Art Pope, and for some, there lies the conflict.

Pope's Variety Wholesalers owns Roses, Maxway and other discount stores, so he has the experience and capital for the project. And that area of southeast Raleigh has been described as a "food desert" with limited access to fresh produce for residents.

However, Pope himself has drawn criticism from members of the community, including the North Carolina NAACP. This past December, local NAACP members picketed Pope's stores. North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber even confronted Pope to personally accuse him of making money off low income residents and using that money to promote policies that hurt them. It's a sentiment agreed upon by others in the community.

"He's taking money from these stores and he's backing Republicans to win districts where they can continue to oppress black people, voter oppression, you name it- he's doing it," said Reverend Earl C. Johnson, of the nearby Martin Street Baptist Church. "One of the things we want to do is to encourage the community to just stay away, just keep going where you're going. If you need rides to other places, we'll help you find those."

Rev. Johnson says there will be a community meeting at the church next week urging residents to boycott the store in the hopes that Pope will eventually decide to sell and leave the neighborhood.

Not everyone in the neighborhood agrees though.

Danny Coleman with the South Central Citizens Advisor Council spoke to ABC11 over the phone and said he thinks residents need to put politics aside and support the store because overall it is beneficial to residents. Coleman added that his council was working on a news conference on the subject that will likely be held outside the former Kroger store sometime Thursday.

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