Today, on the way home from a meeting in Melbourne, I took the opportunity to check out a place I’ve had my eye on for weeks now—a little white and pale-green house tucked on the corner of Malabar Road and US1, residential by appearance, but with the words, “Green Foods Market” spelled out above the front door. It looks SO residential that I’ve always been unsure if it’s a real thing. So, about a week ago, I did what we do in this day and age—Facebook stalked them.
It looked like a legit little operation with smiling owners and friendly-toned posts. And since I’ve been wanting desperately to find a locally-run health food store, plus the fact that I love mom’n’pop shops, I new knew I needed to check it out. Today I was in a roving kind of way, so I took the turn.
A smiling young man welcomed me in and began showing me around the beautiful space and all the healthy bounty for sale there. The place has a home-like feeling. As an old house that’s been repurposed as a store, it is also clean and crisp and painted in a relaxing green and cream hues inside.
“So what’s the story here,” I asked as we walked through the first room. “How long have you been here?”
Nathaniel’s parents—vegetarians way before it was “in”—founded and have run this store for 12 years in a different, but nearby location, selling mostly herbs. He has just moved back from NY and is helping them expand it to include healthy groceries and, soon, freshly made food, a greenhouse, garden and outdoor area for music and events, all of which he graciously and excitedly showed me. The energy of construction, vision and possibility was infectious and pretty soon I was just as excited as him!
When we came back in the store, I got to meet Nathaniel’s polite, alert young son Mikalah, who had been standing dutifully at the register since I entered and whose impressively firm handshake mirrored his father’s. Young Mikalah showed me how he helps run the business—packaging the bulk foods into smaller packages and arranging things around the store.
Early on in the conversation, Nathaniel had asked me–with genuine curiosity–about what I do and as soon as I said I do community building, he asked, “How do I get involved in that?” It soon became clear that he already is involved in that, as he’s been going out and getting acquainted with who and what is going on in town and how they might collaborate. The Market is going to begin offering classes like soap-making, and he asked if I had anything I can teach. “Sure!” I said.
Our dialogue was woven in with excited talk about community-building, roving, getting connected and connecting others. “Because everybody has gifts to give,” he said as we walked back in to the front door.
“Exactly!” I said, “You nailed it.”
Since my husband and I moved from Sarasota back here to my hometown a couple months ago, each new week has offered a delightful flow of uncovering hidden treasures of local assets—organizations, good work, businesses, neighbors and their talents and stories which I never thought to look for when I was of high school age.
I have always been a “rover,” eager to explore my neighborhood and community, but my turf and interests when I was younger were mostly natural things or places—or, when I was a child and obsessed with collecting business cards (true story), I didn’t have much economic or other power to wield with those rubber-band-bound little “asset inventories” of mine. Now that I’m older, I also have come to learn how this roving instinct is a crucial ingredient to restoring strong communities because, first, we need to find out what we already have.
These days, each discovery has an added bonus of, “What?! How did I not know this was here!”
I’m so happy to have taken met this great young entrepreneur who’s equally as stoked about rediscovering his hometown as I am—and this valuable local fixture, and to see where our collaboration might lead. Nathaniel is already interested in coming with us to a local jam session—and I already have three people in mind to teach classes at their location.
It is also heartening to have this local place to spend my money on food so I can “walk my own talk” to keep money in our community for have maximum positive impact. I am firmly convinced that it is the accumulation of these many small exploratory actions, resonant conversations and “persistence in proximity”—a phrase I heard from journalistic pioneer Chuck Peters—that will change our narrative and our world for the better. It is these moments of decision to dig deeper, take a detour, and ask, “What’s your story?” Then, follow the thread.
For more information, visit Green Foods Market located at 2745 Malabar Road in Malabar, Florida.
Click here for their Facebook page.
April Doner is a recently-returned native of Brevard on a journey of discovering, celebrating and connecting local community assets and abundance. Passionate about reconnecting neighborhoods, diversity, inclusion, and restoring local economy, April is a practitioner, teacher and consultant of Asset-Based Community Development as a Faculty Member of the ABCD Institute and the Abundant Community Initiative. She is also an artist and storyteller with Cevian Creative media & marketing agency and with Aprilart Studios. April lives in Grant on her family’s permaculture farm with her husband Trae, their two cats Solomon and Dahlia and Jake the Poodle.
This article was originally posted at Aprilart Studios.