New Community Market Opens in East Austin Food Desert
Allen Rogers opened Rosewood Community Market, 1819 Rosewood Road, at the end of January as a small corner store where he plans to sell locally grown organic produce and specialty items like kombucha, as well as less expensive staples. The USDA Food Desert Locator places the new Rosewood market within and adjacent to some Austin neighborhoods characterized as food deserts.
“I live on the East Side as well and was constantly wishing there was a good food store near me,” Rogers said. “So many people I’ve talked to have said I’m so glad that this is opening so I don’t have to get in my car and drive, I can just pick up a few things for dinner.”
For now, hours and selection are limited as Rogers gets the store on its feet.
“The feedback in the community has been overwhelmingly positive, and I hope that once the shelves are fully stocked, people will realize we’re here and that we have good fresh, local products as well as staple pantry items that people need,” Rogers said.
Rogers had been teaching high school business and marketing in Round Rock and enjoying it, but when school system budget cuts hit last spring, his future seemed unsure and he began looking for work in Austin. He started taking acting classes and got involved in comedy at the New Movement Theater – then located at 1819 Rosewood – and found a job at an East Side nonprofit called PeopleFund that helps fund community-based entrepreneur projects. Both of these connections would prove to be invaluable when Rogers decided to start a market.
As Rogers was making these changes, he also began moving toward a more health-conscious diet and familiarizing himself with Austin’s local food movement. He began researching food hubs – where smaller farmers and ranchers could sell their products into small stores without widespread distribution – and what was lacking in Central Texas.
After working with non-profits in college, Rogers had always had a goal of starting one of his own, and when New Movement Theater decided to move downtown and began looking for a tenant for the corner location, he began pursuing funding for his market idea through the City of Austin and PeopleFund. Rogers received enough backing in September 2012 to start renovations of the store.
Rosewood Community Market is open seven days a week, although since Rogers is currently the only employee, hours are limited and vary. However, he’s looking for another staffer and said that more consistent hours are coming. Although the shelves are sparsely populated only a week after opening, Rogers said he plans to carry fruit, vegetables, meat, bread and milk, among other items.
“It’ll be a nice range of stuff, ranging from organic to conventional and local to not; we don’t want anything to be cost-prohibitive,” Rogers said. “There are people who have lived here for a long time who have their style and the things they need. As well, there are a lot of young, professional people moving in who want locally sourced, organic, nutrient-high foods too. We’re trying to keep that balance.”
The Austin Sustainable Food Center has been a key partner to the Rosewood Market, helping connect Rogers with local farmers and supporting the store’s community outreach.
“Sustainable Food Center is excited to see the development of new and innovative approaches to food access in the community,” said Andrew Smiley, SFC deputy director. “There is obviously a need for efforts on many levels to address access to food including transportation barriers, economic access and skills and self-efficacy related to healthy food. The new Rosewood Community Market is a good example such efforts.”