COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Residents near the Save-A-Lot on Harden Street have been worried for weeks the grocery store could close, leaving the neighborhood it serves in a food desert.
Those fears came true as the Columbia Housing Authority voted to shut down the store later this month.
Thursday, housing authority commissioners voted to close the store down promptly at 5 p.m. on August 24.
Operations of the store were taken over by a subset of the housing authority, called the Columbia Housing Authority Developments (CHAD), back in December.
Ivory Mathews, the new executive director of the housing authority, says the Save-A-Lot was simply draining financial resources that the agency couldn’t sustain when its core function is to provide affordable housing.
“The original operator of the grocery store decided that it no longer could fulfill those responsibilities back in December,” Mathews said. “CHAD stepped in with what it thought would be a temporary solution and it used some of its non-federal resources to offset the cost of operating the grocery store, but that’s just not the business that we’re in. We’re in the business of housing families, so that was operating outside of our wheelhouse.”
CHAD is now looking using a commercial realtor to try and find a new tenant for the Save-A-Lot space.
One resource that can help residents is a rideshare discount offered by COMET called COMET to the Market.
If someone takes an Uber of Lyft to a partnering grocery store, COMET will cover up to $5 of the ride using a promo code.
The code can be used between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day, and twice a week per passenger.
Remember a promo code must be entered to receive the discount. Any cost over $5 is the responsibility of the passenger.
Get details on how to use the promo code by clicking or tapping here.
In the meantime, local groups focused on making sure everyone in Columbia has close access to fresh foods are looking to step in and help.
“We know that folks still need food,” Ashley Paige, of the Columbia Food Policy Committee, said. “I know if I’m a community member, I don’t care how long it’s going to take you to do assessments. All I know is, I need to eat. We’re trying to get in a space, letting folks know we’re here. Letting folks know we have food until a permanent option becomes available.”
And as the housing authority scopes out potential new tenants for that space, those advocates say they don’t just want another grocery store in the spot, they want to make sure it’s affordable, like the Save-A-Lot.
They say putting a high-end grocery store in the space would outprice residents, which could cause even more problems.